Postcard plan that highlights heart tragedy

They were all young people full of promise and life. But they were struck down by a cruel, unseen killer.

The charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young, is today unveiling a poster-sized version of a thought-provoking postcard featuring eight young people from Yorkshire who died from previously undetected heart conditions.

The eight had no apparent symptoms or history of bad health. Yet all succumbed to Sudden Cardiac Death, an umbrella term for heart conditions which claim the lives of around 400 people aged under 35 a year.

Pauline Jolly, who helped organise the launch at Hull High School, in Anlaby, near Hull, with her husband Stephen, said screening would prevent many deaths.

Her 17-year-old son Anthony Lancaster, a promising student hoping to go to Cambridge, was found dead in his bed at his home in Swanland, near Hull, two-and-a-half years ago.

“There is still not enough recognition that things can happen in young people. It is still a bit ageist in reverse. I know of lots of families whose kids have had vague symptoms and it has been shrugged off, even recently.

“The ultimate aim is to have a similar system to the one in Italy and some of the States, which offer an ECG for all kids. It should be part and parcel of the general healthcare for children.”

Mrs Jolly, who has three other children, added: “It never leaves you. We will never be the same again. It just ruins your life – part of you dies at the same time.”

Kyla Hanson rushed to try to save the life of her 20-year-old sister Jodie after she fell ill at her flat in Market Weighton, East Yorkshire.

“She literally went to bed and 15 minutes later her boyfriend said she clenched up and then they knew something was wrong.” She hopes the launch will spread awareness, as she was not aware of the condition until reading about it in a magazine.

Chief Executive and founder of the charity Alison Cox said: “By showing just some of the faces behind the stories we can help people begin to understand the heartbreak caused by this cruel killer and highlight the fact that it can happen to anyone, at anytime – usually without warning.”

Hundreds of postcards will be distributed by CRY supporters to people in the North, urging them to send it back to their local MP.

It is hoped the cards will encourage MPs to add their support to the campaign and join the charity’s All Party Parliamentary Group.

A new card will be launched every month, portraying victims from 12 different regions across the UK. CRY hopes the postcards will keep up the pressure following the Department of Health’s agreement to add a new chapter to the National Service Framework on Coronary Heat Disease, dedicated to deaths among young people.

Ailments covered by the new advice include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the condition that claimed the life of Daniel Yorath, the son of Leeds United star Terry Yorath. His family launched a vigorous campaign to prevent similar tragedies.

The campaign is back by other famous faces from the world of sport, including CRY President Ian Botham OBE. Many victims are struck while taking part in competitive sport or physical activity.

The other people featured on the postcard are Vicky Leanne Johnson, 20, of Wakefield, Jamie Bucknell, 14, of Strensall, York, Dominic O’Loughlin, 11 of Halifax, David Harry, 15, of New Earswick, York, Mike Scott, 17, of Beadlam, York, and Joanne Russell, 32, of Ferrybridge, West Yorkshire.


Death inspired parents’ crusade
By Lucy Harvey
A bereaved couple have raised more than £10,000 in an effort to eradicate a mysterious heart condition which killed their young son.

Craig Johnson was 21 when he died unexpectedly on his way to Sheffield Hallam University – a victim of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome.

Since losing Craig in November 2002, his parents Jean and Ian, of Woodlaithe, Rotherham, have been fundraising to heighten awareness and fund research into the condition which claims as many as eight lives each week.

It is thought SADS has roots in cardiac arrythmia, an abnormal rhythm of the heart.

Sponsored walks and charity evenings have enabled them to give £2,500 to London University’s Heart Hospital, and £1,000 to the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young.

They have also paid almost £4,000 for two heart monitors at their GP surgery in Wickersley, and next week will present two more devices to Sheffield Hallam University, where Craig was a student.

The monitors pick up early signs of abnormalities and any young people who display signs of a heart condition will be sent to hospital for further checks.

Jean, 55, hopes the monitors will save lives and has vowed to continue fundraising.

She said: “We just want to save other people from what we have been through.”