Jenny Thomas – Devon/Cornwall

I was in a deep sleep and somewhere in my dream I could hear a phone ringing. It took a while for me to comprehend it was the bedside phone.

The clock on the bed side table said 2:00am. As soon as I picked up the phone I heard my brother’s trembling voice saying “He has gone”.

It has always worried me that I never asked him who he was talking about and how I instantly knew who he was referring to. He was unable to give any details. Our son Nicholas died suddenly at the wheel of his car while waiting for the traffic lights to change on the 13th January 2005 at 10:00pm.

Nicholas was 25 and the eldest of our two children. His sister Natasha was 9 years younger. He also had a step-brother and sister, Kyle and Courtney.

He was six feet three and handsome with looks to die for and a smile that lit up a room. He was happy and settled in Hertfordshire surrounded by his aunts, uncles and cousins. He had a very caring, loving and positive attitude, always ready to lend a supportive ear to friends and family. He was also the eldest cousin and all the younger ones looked up to him.

The police arrived sometime after the phone call. However, they had no information as to what had really happened. To add to the pain we had to wake Natasha to tell her that her brother had died.

Nicholas and Natasha were very close and he was very protective of his little sister. When we asked him to come home and look after his sister for a week while my husband Dave and I went on holiday, he was delighted to be able to spend some quality time with her.

It was also Natasha’s birthday during that week. We returned from our holiday late on Sunday 9th January. Nicholas and I stayed up until after 2:00am talking about his work, family and music. He was very keen for me to listen to his latest CD.

On the Monday morning I said goodbye to him and left for work. Halfway up the road I had an overwhelming urge to hug him. So I turned the car around and came back to the house. When I walked in the house his music was so loud he didn’t hear me enter his room and when I called his name he almost jumped out of his skin. I hugged him, told him I loved him then left for work.

nickthomas1Nicholas had planned to get the 3:00pm train back to Stevenage, but knowing how laid back he was coupled with his lack of urgency at times, I was sure that he might miss his train. At 3:15pm I called his mobile just to check he was on the train, we had a quick chat, I promised to call him later in the week, told him I loved him and said goodbye. That was the last time we spoke.

Nicholas was born on the 21st May 1979; he was a very good baby, always happy and never cried much. His dad and I separated before I found out I was pregnant; I brought Nicholas up pretty much on my own for seven years. Nicholas was about 7 years old when Dave and I met. In his younger years, Dave and Nicholas had a father and son relationship, but as he got older it became more like best mates.

He left school with not very good grades; he never seemed interested in school. His two passions were football and music. His every waking moment was spent kicking a ball.

He was never without a pad or pen, always scribbling lyrics; he would write on anything he could find. Going through his things we found writing pads, receipts, bills and letters with lyrics he had written on the spur of the moment.

He left Plymouth to live in Hertfordshire because he wanted to be close to the London music scene. His passion for music was the reason he left Plymouth because he was unable to find a studio where he could record his songs. The move to Hertfordshire enabled him to establish himself. He produced, wrote and sang his own lyrics and music with his two cousins.

nickthomas4On several occasions Nicholas complained of indigestion type pain and palpitations and was always rubbing the left side of his chest. He suffered mild asthma and chronic hay fever and was always taking over the counter remedies which were known for causing palpitations. His friends told us that he had blacked out on several occasions and was taken to A&E by ambulance. Nicholas had only once casually mentioned to us that he had fainted at work. I suggested he visited his GP. When I spoke to him several days later he said his GP had told him he had a viral infection and should rest.

We left Plymouth at 5:00am to drive to Hertfordshire. During the four hour drive my one thought was that we would get there and find that someone had made a huge mistake. If it was true, then other people’s lives should come to a standstill. Mine had, so why was everyone around me still carrying on as normal?

When we arrived at the hospital my sisters, nieces and nephews were all in the family waiting room. The bereavement nurse took us in to see Nicholas who looked as though he had fallen asleep with a smile on his face. I was shocked at how cold he was. I remember thinking he is not going to be happy, he hates the cold. We had to give the police a statement.

When we held the funeral three weeks later the large church was packed. We asked that everyone attending should wear a bright colour of their choice in celebration of Nicholas’s life.

The post mortem failed to come up with anything, other than he was fit. The coroner concluded that because of the symptoms of palpitations, blackouts and a healthy heart, Nicholas died of Long QT syndrome (LQTS) which is a disorder of the heart’s electrical activity that causes sudden death. The doctor who treated Nicholas in A&E told us that even if Nicholas had an ECG there was no guarantee that the tracing would have recorded the LQTS.

A CRY leaflet was included in the post-mortem report. Reading it I was shocked to learn that 8 [at the time] fit and healthy youngsters die in the UK every week from undiagnosed heart conditions.

From the 13th January 2005 I have lived in a world of sadness with a constant ache in my heart, most of the time just going through the motions. I am exhausted from the effort of trying to shake off the sadness; sometimes it’s difficult to even find the motivation.

I think of him every hour of every day. The hole in my heart will never heal.
Nicholas – “Forever Blazing in our Hearts”.

Jenny Thomas