New hope for youngsters at risk from heart attacks

Moves to fund more research into cardiac conditions in young people like Kevin Sayer, who died suddenly in his sleep when he was just 18, have been welcomed by his family. Cash has been put aside to allow coroners to refer cases like Kevin’s to expert cardiologists.

The family of a Norfolk teenager who died from a heart problem has welcomed moves to spend more money on research into cardiac conditions in young people.

The otherwise fit and healthy Kevin Sayer, an 18-year-old footballer, died suddenly in his sleep three years ago from a condition known as cardiiomyoptahy.

His family knew nothing of the illness and at the inquest coroner William Armstrong said many medical experts and coroners knew nothing about heart conditions in young people and could therefore not accurately administers a cause of death.

Now campaign group Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) has announced that funding of £300,000 will be invested nationwide so coroners can refer cases to expert cardiologists to look at the reasons behind such deaths and give better answers to bereaved families.

Kevin’s mum Evelyn, 63, of Bergh Apton, said: “Too often symptoms are overlooked because there are not enough people who know about cardiac problems in teenagers. We were lucky because our coroner knew what he was talking about but in many cases a definite cause of death is not given and therefore there is no way their deaths can be used to help others.

“Kevin was a fit teenager and there were no warning signs. People need to know what to look out for. I welcome this funding and hope it helps to save lives.”

Ten years ago, Caroline Gard from Frinton near Ipswich lost her son, Andy just days before his 18th birthday from a heart attack and since then she has worked for CRY as a divisional representative for the East.

She said: “Historically when there has been the death of a young person it has been difficult, in some areas, for the families to get an accurate report following the death.

“Some of the conditions which are very rare are difficult to see during a post mortem, so it is difficult to say an exact cause of death.

“When you have lost a child or young person who is apparently fit and healthy it is very important to a family to find out what the cause is. Just being told “it is one of those things” or “natural causes” or something like that does not help a family with their grieving.

“Another reason, which is maybe even more important, is that if it is one of the conditions which is hereditary then the family really need to be aware of that so that any siblings or close relatives can be tested.”

CRY aims to raise awareness of sudden death of young people due to largely undiagnosed heart conditions.