Forest M.P.concerned about young heart deaths

NEW FOREST East MP Julian Lewis has highlighted in Parliament the poignant case of his Hythe constituent, Adrian Woodhead, to illustrate the need for greater awareness, more screening and better research into cardiac risk in the young, or sudden death syndrome. This kills at least four young people every week, Adrian was married to Sarah, for 10 years, until 1997, Sarah, a non-smoker who had never been ill, suffered a massive heart seizure and died as a result of this condition aged 28.

Dr. Lewis said two groups are particularly at risk: where there is a family history of death at a young age, and where young people are engaged in serious sport. Some 10 years ago a charitable body, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) was set up by Alison Cox, the wife of former British number one tennis player Mark, after their son Steven’s fortuitous screening and discovery of the conditions whilst he was at college in America. Following that discovery, and Steven’s decision to give up the professional tennis career that would undoubtedly have been his, he is still healthy at the age of 27 and it may well be that he owes his life to that screening in America.

Five years ago, said Dr. Lewis, implants which could kick-start a heart that had gone
into seizure and regulate it after the attack, were the size of half a brick. Now the are the size of a matchbox and can be implanted under local anesthetic. The MP pressed the Minister to see that enough is being done to increase the number of implants that are being supplied and to ensure that sufficient research is being done on drugs to alleviate the dangers. He also asked the Minister to look again at making a discretionary grant to CRY for its important work.

Responding, Health Minister Yvette Cooper identified a number of critical questions which needed to be examined when deciding whether a screening programme was a good idea. She promised to look at the whole issue again and would be asking the national screening committee for an update on new treatment possibilities. She also revealed that Health Department officials would be meeting CRY later in the summer and she hoped that they would be able to discuss the priorities that should be taken into consideration when awarding funding.

Speaking later, Dr. Lewis commented: ‘I was impressed with the willingness of Yvette Cooper to look at the problem afresh, bearing in mind the considerable advances in research which have been made in the last few years which can lead to many of these tragedies being avoided. I pay tribute to the work Adrian Woodhead has done and continues to do in alerting people to what is at stake.’

With permission from the Advertiser and Times