The North West remains “at the heart” of leading cardiac charity

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CRY’s screening team carries out its 10,000th test in the region this month

Just over two decades after its launch in 1995 – around the same time that a local Ormskirk family, the local media and the football community were devastated by the death of a promising young footballer – the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) has announced that the 10,000th screening in the North West will be carried out this weekend [Saturday 29th April].

Bereaved parents, John and Maureen Marshall helped inspire the launch of CRY when their son, John died suddenly from a condition known as Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC) in 1995. John was a talented footballer having played for England on 12 occasions. He had been signed by Everton FC and was due to start his football career with them the day after he died.

Hayley Crosbie (ne Marshall) John’s sister, adds: “My brother was so fit and healthy, he was known as one of England’s footballing jewels in the crown, mainly for his left foot. As a family, we’re now proud to be involved with CRY and to have funded 12 cardiac screening sessions over the past 20 years. We remain regional Representatives for CRY and will continue to do all we can to prevent other families from experiencing the same agonising grief that we’ve had to endure.”

Since John’s death, CRY has grown into one of the UK’s most influential cardiac charities with an unparalleled level of expertise dedicated to preventing young sudden cardiac death (YSCD). Many other families across the North West who have also been tragically bereaved have become loyal supporters, advocates and fundraisers. It’s due to their tireless commitment that so many young people have now had the opportunity to be tested for potentially fatal heart conditions –most of whom will have received reassuring news, whilst others (around one in 300) seemingly well young people will have been referred for life saving treatment.

The 10,000th screening takes place this weekend in Altrincham at an event funded by the family of Chloe Waddell. Chloe – a young, Olympic swimming hopeful – tragically died in her sleep, in February 2013. She was aged just 16.

Every week, at least 12 young (35 and under) apparently fit and healthy people die from a previously undiagnosed heart condition. Many – but not all – of these young people will have been involved in sport at the time of their death. Sport and physical activity does not cause sudden cardiac death itself (in fact, research carried out by CRY shows that a large number of these deaths will also occur when a young person is at rest or even sleeping) but it can significantly exacerbate an existing, undiagnosed condition. And, although screening will not identify all those at risk, in Italy, where screening is mandatory for all young people engaged in organised sport, the incidence of young sudden cardiac death has been reduced by 89%.”

An ECG (electrocardiogram) test – the internationally recognised, gold-standard diagnostic test, that underpins CRY’s screening programme – is a simple way to identify the vast majority of abnormalities that can cause sudden deaths in young people. The test is quick, non-invasive and, if necessary, a further echocardiogram (ultrasound scan of the heart) can be taken on the same day to provide further clarity or reassurance.

Chief Executive of CRY, Dr Steven Cox, says: “The death of a young person is devastating for any family. It is therefore essential that anyone with a potentially fatal heart condition knows about it. Without this knowledge and, if necessary, appropriate treatment, they could be putting their lives at risk as in 80% of cases there are no signs or symptoms.

Dr Cox adds: “We began screening young people over 20 years ago and I am so proud that we are now testing around 23,000 young people annually. Across the UK, we have carried out over 120,000 cardiac screens and we are certainly in a position at the moment where we cannot meet demand. We will therefore continue to campaign for greater support and endorsement from the Government.

“But, in the meantime, I want to thank families and supporters across the North West who have helped us reach this incredible milestone. This is where we started screening and it is therefore fitting we can use this to highlight that screening is the most effective way we have of saving young lives from these cruel and indiscriminate heart conditions.”

CRY’s screening programme is overseen by Professor Sanjay Sharma, Professor of Inherited Cardiovascular Disease and Sports Cardiology at St George’s Hospital London and the Medical Director of the Virgin London Marathon. Professor Sharma makes no charge for supervising the CRY screening programme and due to this support, CRY is able to significantly subsidise the programme – privately, these tests could cost hundreds of pounds.