Laura John (14) from Southampton yesterday took on the prestigious role as official ‘coin tosser’ for the Men’s Singles Final at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships – representing the national charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY).
It is a sad irony that just a few years ago, Laura was warned that she’d never be able to take part in sporting activities, such as tennis, due to a potentially fatal hereditary heart defect. However, Laura and her older sister, Danielle (17) have both been fitted with lifesaving cardiac implants* and – with support from CRY – can now lead an active life, like that of their friends and other teenagers.
Both were identified as having sudden arrhythmia death syndrome (SADS) – also known as Long QT syndrome – after crucial screening at Southampton General Hospital in 1998. Their mum, Julie, fought for the girls to undergo the lifesaving tests after their dad Dave died suddenly at the age of 32 from SADS.
Laura and her sister were forced to make drastic changes to their lifestyle, stopping all sporting activities immediately. It wasn’t until 2000, with the support of CRY that both girls were fitted with the implants that send an electric shock to the heart when an irregular heart beat is detected.
*implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). A small device that monitors heartbeats and detects irregular beats – it literally delivers a life-saving electric shock to re-start the heart
Laura is now a familiar face to many in the South – she is one half of the ‘Bionic Babes’ along with Danielle. They have travelled across the UK in their converted, pink VW Camper van, raising awareness and funds for CRY. Both girls are being trained in counselling skills to help support other young people suffering from Long QT syndrome.
Founder and Chief Executive of CRY, Alison Cox, adds; “We are all so proud of Laura and delighted that she was selected for this honour at Wimbledon. She has done so much to help us raise awareness of SADS and is a true example of how early detection and screening can allow young people to lead a normal, healthy life and ultimately prevent another tragic death hitting a family more than once.”
Roger Taylor (Davis Cup Captain and former Wimbledon semi-finalist) nominated CRY as his charity choice and invited Laura to spend the day at Wimbledon and perform the famous coin toss on Centre Court. She was a guest of the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club and had lunch at Competitor’s restaurant, before watching the Men’s Singles Final with Alan Mills the Championship Referee.
For more information or to arrange an interview / photo with Laura please contact Nikki Burrowes, Jo Hudson or Caroline Beswick on 01737 352002 or email firstname.lastname@example.org