Deborah Anderson – Durham

anderson(d)My name is Deborah Anderson and I was truly blessed to have four healthy fit children. Three daughters and one son.

Then in 1998 my son, Dean, caught a chest infection and my family doctor, who examined him, said she thought he may have a heart murmur and would like to have him checked at the hospital.
This check took place a few months later and the paediatrician told us that Dean did have a heart murmur but it was what they called an innocent murmur and assured us there was no cause for concern.

The next year at Dean’s check the doctor was not happy with his heart murmur and sent us straight to hospital where Dean had an echocardiogram. The next day we were told Dean had a serious heart condition, obstructive Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. Our whole world was turned upside down. You don’t expect something like this when your child has been so healthy. We were told one of the risks is sudden death. Of course some patients with this condition can live to an old age. I felt like my son was a living time bomb waiting to explode. I wanted to give him everything and show him the world. I just didn’t know how long I would have my son and prayed that he would be one of the lucky ones and would live to an old age. Dean would be monitored every six months and was given medication. He could not participate in any sports and had to try not to exert himself. He was nine years old.

On August 3rd 2005 Dean went out with his twin sisters and his nephew. He was so proud to be an Uncle. Later that day he was playing in the back with his sister and nephew. He got out of breath so sat down to rest. Then he collapsed. His sister tried to resuscitate him and dialled for an ambulance. Her friend called me. That was it, my worst nightmare coming true. My husband and I rushed to my daughter’s; the paramedics were already with Dean. What seemed like an eternity later one of them came to me and said he was afraid Dean was not responding and they would take him to hospital. I went in the ambulance with him and they continued to work on him. They also tried so hard at the hospital but to no avail. My world was now completely shattered. We were all devastated.

Dean had accepted his condition so bravely. It didn’t change his loving, caring personality at all. Dean had continued to work hard at school and had so many plans for his life. He always put other people before himself and would do anything in his power to make people happy. He was so loved and so popular wherever he went. I felt so incomplete. Family and friends helped tremendously but that didn’t give me back my son. I just didn’t know how I would keep on going. Then I thought of how brave Dean had always been and how he always wanted to help others.

I had already been onto the CRY website to find out as much as I could about Dean’s condition. I decided that I would try to help raise awareness for CRY and hopefully help other families from experiencing this tragedy. My family and Dean’s school friends have also raised funds through various charity nights for CRY.

We were lucky in one respect that Dean had been diagnosed. I am sure if his condition had gone undetected he would have certainly collapsed at a much younger age and although Dean was still so young at least we were blessed to have him in our lives for 15 years when it could have been much less. I am thankful for that as Dean gave us so much love and pleasure.

People read about it in papers and sympathise but don’t actually realise they could have a member of their family who has an undetected heart condition until it’s too late. My daughters and I have only recently been screened and I am sad to say that both myself and one of my daughters have the early stages of HCM. However ours is nowhere near as severe as Dean’s was, we are not on medication, so we will remain positive and stay focussed, hoping that more research will help us.

I am proud to be a representative for CRY and will continue to raise awareness and funds to try and get compulsory screening for children in the UK and to help with research, as there is still so much that is unknown.

We also have a website for Dean; this has also helped me enormously: