Have a heart, save lives

A mother who lost her son to an undetected heart condition is calling for routine cardiac screening of everyone under 35.

Paula Lunt, who founded the Craig's Heatrstrong Foundation in memory of her son, spoke out after a number of life-threatening heart conditions were discovered during two screening sessions organised by the charity.

Among those who owe their lives to Paula Lunt's campaign is talented footballer Daniel Oram, 18, who underwent open heart surgery three weeks ago after a hole in his heart was discovered – and can now look forward to going to university in September.

Paula, who has now been nominated for a Flybe Pride in Mann award, said: "I think the government should get on board and everybody aged 14 to 35 should be screened routinely – it should be just like going to the dentist."

Her 25-year-old son Craig died suddenly from a heart defect that neither he nor his parents knew he had.

She set up Craig's Heartstrong Foundation in the hope of preventing other parents going through the same anguish of losing a child.

To compound her grief, Paula, 50, of Ballabroole Drive, Douglas, learnt just three days after her son's death that she suffered the genetic heart condition Long QT which she had unknowingly passed on to her son.

The Foundation teamed up with UK-based charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) to hold two heart screening sessions in the island in March this year and May last year during which 960 people aged 14 to 35 were tested.

Daniel Oram, a talented footballer who plays for the Ramsey first team, attended the first session at the Hilton Hotel after spotting an advert in the newspaper.

His dad Michael, 39, said: "He'd always been really active and never had any health problems at all. He'd seen the advert for the screening test and thought he might as well go along.

"I went up with him to the Hilton and thought he had been a while, others who had gone in afterwards were coming out before him. I was asked to come through and Daniel was looking a bit shaken. They had found a hole in his heart.

"He was supposed to be going to California six weeks later to play football. He's level headed and coped with it pretty well but he was shaken and apprehensive."

Craig's Heartstrong Foundation paid for Daniel to have further tests carried out privately. Then, three weeks ago, he underwent open heart surgery at Manchester Royal Infirmary. He was in theatre for four hours.

Thankfully, the operation was a success and five days later he was back recovering at the family home of Johnny Watterson's Lane in Douglas with his dad and mum Helen.

Residential support worker Michael said: "You could say he owes his life to the Foundation and Pau7la especially. Saying thank you a million times would not be enough.

"If he had not gone for the scan, he could have been facing a heart transplant in his 20s or 30s – or h e could have ended up like Craig. It will take him 12 weeks to recover but he should be all right. He still won't be able to play football for a few months but he'll be able to go to university in September."

Every week eight apparently fit and healthy young people die in the UK from undiagnosed heart conditions.

Alison Cox, founder and chief executive of CRY, said she didn't believe that cardiac screening should be mandatory or that the government should pay for it – but that everyone should have access to it.

Public health consultant Dr Paul Emerson said screening carried the risk of causing anxiety among patients.

He said: "Screening programmes should only be introduced with great care and extensive research to ensure the benefits outweigh the disadvantages."

The next screening session in the island will take place either later this year or early next year.