When Gareth’s heart stopped on February 25th this year it broke all our hearts. Gareth was 21 years old, a graduate in International Politics and Law with his whole life ahead of him. He had recently moved into a house with three of his oldest friends and they were busy finding jobs and playing together in the band they had formed while still at school.
Gareth was very fit and healthy. He had played football for years and had returned from his first skiing trip just two weeks before he died. He was such a kind, gentle young man and loved spending time with his friends and family.
He loved films and computer games and playing his bass guitar. He and his friends had recently formed a 5-a-side football team and played in a local league. We just feel so sad that he was unable to fulfil his full potential.
When he was 10 years old he complained of a pain in his chest when he was running around in the sun. His pulse seemed a little irregular to me and as I was a cardiology research nurse at the time I decided to get this checked out.
Gareth was seen by a paediatric cardiologist and had an echo, 12 lead ECG, exercise test and 24 hour holter tape. All was absolutely normal and we were told that Gareth was a very fit, healthy little boy and there was no need to mention this episode again.
I saw Gareth three times in the week before he died. He was fine and had no complaints. He called home on the Saturday night and had something to eat before leaving to return to his home in Cardiff. His friends said that he was well and went to bed around 2.30am. At 3.30pm his friends looked into his room but thought that he was still asleep and as he had had a late night they decided to leave him alone.
However, when they returned to the house two hours later they were surprised to find that he was still in bed. It was then they discovered that he had died. They called an ambulance and tried to revive him, but sadly there was nothing anyone could do.
At 7.30 that evening we experienced every parent’s worst nightmare, the knock on the door by two policemen. We will never get over the horrors of that evening and can only imagine how it must have been for Gareth’s friends. We were allowed to see Gareth in the hospital mortuary, but not allowed to touch him whilst the police continued their investigations. The funeral, 10 days later, passed in a blur but Gareth would have been amazed that so many people attended. Friends from school and university, schoolteachers from primary and secondary school along with people that he had met through football, they were all there. I think that Gareth would have been pleased too that we added a Welsh flag to his coffin, along with a football shirt that he had worn many years before.
It is exactly nine months since Gareth died and the pain is still so raw. We will never get used to losing him in such a cruel way and my heart goes out to all the other families who are going through the same nightmare. Since Gareth’s death we have received support from CRY and have set up a memorial fund in Gareth’s name to raise funds for the wonderful work that they do.
Anne and Trefor Thomas