The agonising wait endured by many families following the sudden and tragic death of a child or partner could soon be over with the opening of the UK’s first ever ‘fast-track’ pathology laboratory to analyse the causes of unexpected cardiac death in apparently fit and healthy young people.
The new unit, known as The CRY Centre for Cardiac Pathology (CRYCCP) is based at the world famous Royal Brompton Hospital. It is funded by CRY and has been jointly established with support from Imperial College London.
The official launch took place on Friday 7 March and was attended bymore than 150 people, including bereaved families and supporters of CRY and the hospital. Speakers included Michael Burgess, HM Coroner for Surrey and Coroner of the Queen’s Household, new CRY Patron Sir Clive Woodward and Alison Cox, founder and Chief Executive of CRY.
CRY funds for the project are in part due to the heroic fundraising of a Surrey family who lost both a father and teenage son to sudden cardiac death. Two fund raising events in 2006, instigated by Simon Halliday (England Rugby Union double grand slam winner and member of the team of 1991 World Cup Finalists) were supported by the rugby community in memory of Howard and Sebastian English who both died playing the game. Sebastian (aged just 15) died 10 years after his father because his family were unaware he had a genetic condition, highlighting the importance of a correct pathology diagnosis for appropriate family referral and screening.
The new centre will allow coroners to refer cases directly and receive a full report of the actual cause of death, usually within 2 weeks. Currently, some families have to endure a wait of anything from three to eighteen months for answers after their tragedy.
A grant in excess of £200,000 has been awarded to one the world’s leading pathological experts, Dr Mary Sheppard. A pilot of the service has been run at the Royal Brompton for the past 10 months, during which time the team has received direct referrals from almost 100 coroners across the UK.
Alison Cox said, “For years, we have been frustrated by the time it takes for families to get answers about their tragedy – which happens without warning or explanation.” She continued, “A fast track service accessing expertise, which also funds the coroner’s costs of this vital investigation, is long overdue.”
Michael Burgess added, “We thank CRY and we also thank Mary and her team here for the important service they are providing. If the turnaround proves quick enough, we may be able to avoid some inquests entirely.”
Dr Sheppard says “Sudden cardiac death has a devastating impact on families – coming ‘out of the blue’ with no warning and often no explanation.
However, the service at our new CRY Laboratories will enable us to play a small but vital part in helping people come to terms with their loss by providing the much sought after answers regarding the actual cause of death.
“Once families have access to such information, the correct follow-up screening can take place which could confirm whether any other members are living with the same, hereditary conditions. Only then, can medical professionals take steps to ensure that similar, unnecessary deaths are prevented in the future.”
The launch marks the 3rd anniversary of “Chapter 8” of the National Service Framework for Coronary Heart Disease (Arrhythmias and Sudden Cardiac Death).
CRY will be uniquely funding referrals from coroners to the new laboratories – and it is believed to be the first time that the Coroners service has received such a grant.
The CRYCCP will also allow Dr Sheppard and her team to carry out vital, ongoing research into the pathology of the condition, leading to a greater understanding and awareness of the syndromes that can cause sudden cardiac death in the young.
Michael Burgess, H.M. Coroner for Surrey and Coroner of the Queens Household will also be speaking at the event and there will be opportunities for one-to-one interviews with all speakers and other families.
For those who are interested, a guided tour of the laboratory will also be conducted, including filming opportunities.