Parents show great heart

An Ullapool mother who lost her only child to a suspected undetected heart condition handed over life-saving cardiac equipment to two local medical surgeries last week.

Since the death of their daughter Joanne, Alex and Fraser Fotheringham have been raising money for the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) through a special fund which they set up in Joanne’s name.

Joanne, a popular and energetic young Gaelic-medium teacher, was visiting Glasgow to choose an engagement ring together with her boyfriend when she died suddenly in her sleep in April 1997.

Joanne’s cause of death was put down to Sudden Death Syndrome, a blanket term for around 11 heart conditions which claim the lives of fit and active young people, normally aged between 15 and 35.

After Joanne’s death, Alex and her husband Fraser sought to allay their grief by working for CRY, which is campaigning for heart screening to be extended to every teenager in Britain.

To date they have raised a total of £48,000 and in 2002 they organised screenings to be carried out in Ullapool and the Isle of Lewis, where Joanne used to teach.

Some 30 youngsters were recalled for further tests after registering abnormal readings.

Last Friday, through the Joanne Fotheringham Memorial Fund for CRY, Alex was able to hand over a cardio care unit, costing £5,500, to the Ullapool Medical Practice.

This unit is a specially designed “grab bag£ containing defibrillator, heart start machine and drugs, which GPs can take to cardiac emergencies.

She also handover over two “cardiocalls,” a halter monitor which can be worn by patients to capture irregular heart rhythms. The readings are then transmitted down through a telephone line to a receiving station, avoiding a long trip to Raignmore Hospital in Inverness as well as the worry of waiting for an appointment.

The cardiocalls, costing £1,000 each, go to both Gairloch and Aultbea Medical Practice, and Ullapool Practice.

Alex, who works in a bank in Ullapool, said: “I did think at one point I should call it a day with the fundraising, but we have come so far with it and it’s really pleasing when people can see that the money they have raised goes back into the local communities.

“The young and old benefit from the cardiac machines, because although CRY focuses on cardiac abnormalities in young people, this equipment will help people of all ages.”

Joanne taught in Bayble School, Lewis, where she mad such an impact that her pupils and colleagues built a memorial garden to her.

A keen piper, she had also fulfilled her ambition of passing her HGV driving test at the first attempt and was undertaking an advanced driving course at the time of her death.

She was buried in Gress, Lewis, rather than in her home village, because of her deep love for the islands.