Ruth Lowe – Lancashire

RL(main)Two and a half years ago I had never heard of CRY or Sudden Adult Death Syndrome. On 12th April 2004 my only child Andrew died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 21.

My Husband Dave and I were away on holiday in Oxford making the most of the Easter break, at the time I was a teacher and Dave is a lecturer.

On the Bank Holiday Monday we were planning to visit Blenheim Palace, but before going in I rang Andrew to remind him of a dental appointment he had the following day. His mobile phone was answered by Preston CID who asked me to ring my sister. Immediately I knew something was wrong.

Dave rang my sister who said she’d been trying to get in touch with us all night, as Andrew had collapsed and died whilst out with his friends the previous evening. You can imagine what a devastating shock this was – we didn’t really take in what had actually happened but knew we had to get back to Preston as soon as possible and to contact Andrew’s fiancée who was in Australia with her family. The journey home took about three hours and neither of us spoke all the way.

The police and coroner’s officer were very sympathetic and supportive to our situation and kept us informed. Initially the reason for Andrew’s death was unknown. Andrew’s father had died when Andrew was only three years old from a brain tumour and at first it was thought that Andrew may have had a brain haemorrhage. The post-mortem, however, revealed that unknown to us Andrew had suffered two heart attacks in the two to three weeks before he died and that his left ventricle was enlarged.

Andrew and his fiancée Gemma were looking forward to getting married in November 2004 and had been working very hard on their future home. He was very excited about their forthcoming marriage and had everything to live for. Health wise, everything seemed to be fine and Andrew rarely had cause to visit the doctor, however, two to three weeks before his death he complained of having indigestion. He said that the discomfort felt like an air lock and had occurred after eating but was eased on taking an antacid medication. This apparently may have been his first heart attack.

On the day he died, Andrew had spent the day with friends at their home. He’d had lunch with them but had refused a second helping of cake. He told them he had a touch of indigestion! Less than 12 hours later Andrew’s heart went into arrhythmia causing his sudden death.

We were left feeling bewildered and asking many questions. A short time after I read an article in a woman’s magazine that told another story of a sudden adult death and highlighted the work of CRY. I immediately sent for CRY’s literature and was amazed by how many other families had been affected by SADs. Dave and I sat into the early hours reading other people’s stories and about the causes of SADs.

My first instinct (being driven) was to make other people aware of SADs, simply because if I’d been aware I would have insisted that Andrew had gone to the doctors and been tested as soon as he had complained of repeated ‘indigestion’.

My goal was, and still is, to raise awareness and to hold screening events in the area for other young people. I believe if Andrew had been given the chance to be screened then his death may have been prevented. Support in our fundraising events has been tremendous and our first screening event is on 11th February.

I am still finding it hard coming to terms with Andrew’s death, but I find the following quotation inspirational:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. Reinhold Niebuhr

When Alison asked me to be the North West representative I was delighted to accept. Maybe I can make some contribution to the excellent work CRY is doing.

If you would like to contact one of our Representatives or a Bereavement Supporter please call the CRY office at 01737 363222 or e-mail [email protected] and we will put you in touch with someone who may be able to help you.