Mother calls for testing to stop cardiac youth deaths

A mother whose son died suddenly on his 17th birthday said much more must be done to reduce cardiac deaths in young people.

Gina Challen's son, Ricky 'Boo' Jones died in his sleep two and a half years ago this week. An inquest in 2004 failed to find a reason why the promising Hayes FC youth team goalkeeper died, but the pathologist suggested he suffered from a possible heart abnormality.

The charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) released a survey last week which found that the majority of primary care trusts have failed to implement any of the recommendations to combat a condition that claims eight young people a week.

Mrs Challen, 47, of Michael Gaynor Close, Hanwell, said: "I am not at all surprised. If hundreds of youngsters were dying it would get more attention. It could be down to lack of resources because if costs £200 for an ECG.

"We should have screening of young people like they do in countries like Italy and Cyprus."

A plaque is to be put up in memory of Boo, as he was known to friends, on the Michael Gaynor Close Estate where he lived.

The money was part of a lottery grant to improve the area and people living there decided to spend some of it on the plaque because he was so popular. Mrs Challen said she was still struggle to come to terms with the death of Boo, found dead in his sister, Jodie's house in Hayes by Clare King, his girlfriend at the time, in September 2003.

Mrs Challen, who has put together a poignant memorial website for her son, said: "It feels like yesterday. It doesn't go away. I can function. I must don't just cry all the time. The whole family is still affected. I racked my brains at the time, wondering why he had died. He was fit and sporty. I used to wonder if there was something that I had missed.

"I was very pleased with the website to Boo. It took a long time and there were a lot of tears."

Cry was instrumental, with other campaigners, in pushing for the guidelines on how the NHS should identify and access people who are at increased risk to sudden cardiac death.

It sets out best practice for patients which includes heart screening and referrals to specialists, counselling, information and psychological support. Alison Cox, founder and chief executive of CRY, said: "Electrocardiogram testing in the young is vital if we are to reduce the number of unnecessary deaths – but this needs to be followed up with a referral to a cardiac specialist."

Ealing Primary Care Trust said it does not have a written strategy directly relating to young people and cardiac care but is committed to following national guidelines and offering high quality care.