Mother backing health crusade

A mother whose son died suddenly from an undiagnosed heart disease is backing an awareness campaign which she says could save lives.

Cardiac Risk in the Young, or CRY, has launched the campaign to highlight the number of young people who die unexpectedly from previously undetected heart conditions.

The charity claims 12 people lose their lives each week across the UK from sudden cardiac death, which covers a number of conditions, and has issued a postcard highlighting the statistic, featuring a dozen victims.

One of the faces featured is Christiaan Smith, son of Clydach councillors Roger and Paulette Smith, who died in 1999 from myocarditis, one of 11 major causes of unexpected cardiac death in the young.

Mrs Smith said: “Losing Christiaan was like a light going out. He was a fit, healthy and active young man. He was slim, he was a normal run-of-the-mill 24-year-old.

“We had no idea there was anything wrong. He had only come to visit us for a weekend and the only thing he had was flu-like symptoms.

“There should be normal screening for heart conditions for everyone, like they have in Italy and the US, not just selective screening, because some people will always slip through the net.

“Supporting the campaign is a way of keeping Christiaan’s memory alive.”

CRY says its figures for sudden death among people aged 35 and under during 2006 suggest that 12 people lose their lives in the UK every week – half as many more than was previously thought.

Results of a survey for the charity show that overall understanding of sudden cardiac death in the young remains low in Wales, with 53 per cent saying they were not aware of the scale of deaths.

The campaign unveiled in Cardiff yesterday was a part of a UK-wide promotion by CRY.

CRY founder and chief executive Alison Cox said: “These 12 faces are just a snapshot of the problem. We need to keep up the pressure and engage support from as many MPs as possible to ensure we are doing everything we can to prevent families from experiencing similar tragedies.”