A nationwide campaign – the brainchild of the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) – toured England for the second year running in autumn 2010, aiming to reduce the number of sudden deaths from undiagnosed heart conditions in apparently fit and healthy young people.
The CRY Test My Heart Tour 2010 stopped in Oxford from the 30th of October to 1st of November and screened local young people. The tour marked one of the flagship campaigns for CRY during its 15th anniversary year.
The screening sessions took place outside the town’s Tesco (Cowley) store; and were held in memory of teenager, Sebastian English, who died suddenly from an undiagnosed heart condition whilst playing rugby in 2004. He was aged just 15. Tragically, his father, Howard, had died from to the same fatal cardiac condition 11 years earlier, also whilst playing rugby. At the time, no one suspected that the cause might have been hereditary.
Former England rugby international and CRY Patron, Simon Halliday – who was coaching Howard’s English’s team when he died – supported the 3-day screening event in Oxford.
Oxford holds a special place in Simon’s heart, as it is where he went to university. As a student, Simon played rugby for Oxford University, before going on to play for Bath and England – winning two Grand Slams and playing in the 1991 World Cup Final against Australia.
This latest event in the nationwide Test My Heart Tour came just days after it was announced by Premiership Rugby that all elite rugby union players in England above the age of 16 are to be offered cardiac screening, in partnership with CRY.
Every week in the UK, 12 young people (aged 35 and under) lose their lives to sudden cardiac death – a statistic that is believed to be a conservative estimate. Following the success of the initial Test My Heart Tour in 2009 – which saw the huge, mobile screening unit (donated by health and well-being company, Phillips) visiting 12 destinations – this year’s Test My Heart Tour aimed to offer free screening to over 2,500 young people.
Last year, around 2,500 young people were tested in venues including supermarkets, town centres and universities. At least 13 people were diagnosed with heart abnormalities during the 10 week tour.
A staggering 80 per cent of the apparently healthy 14 to 35 year-olds who die from young sudden cardiac death will have shown no previous sign of heart defects.
It is widely accepted that testing saves lives, reinforcing the importance of the CRY Test My Heart Tour and its unique ability to detect conditions that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
Chief Executive and Founder of Cardiac Risk in the Young, Alison Cox MBE, said: “As a charity, we are very excited about the prospect of rolling out our pioneering tour for the second year.
“The Test My Heart initiative allows us to reach out to new parts of England, where access to screening may be poor, as well as helping us to continue raising the profile of CRY and the importance of screening young people.
“In 2009, in just over two months, our team identified a number of young people who were simply unaware that they were walking around with an undiagnosed and potentially fatal heart defect – literally, a ticking timebomb. Thankfully, these people were treated and are now able to lead normal, active lives. The consequences of their conditions remaining undetected simply doesn’t bear thinking about and underlines the very ethos of CRY and our ongoing mission to reduce deaths from these sudden and tragic conditions.”
The mobile unit consists of three rooms where Philips’ ECG and ECHO equipment is used to test people. A doctor and a team of cardiac physicians are present, with each screening taking no more than 30 minutes.