In June 2010 my wife Ita and myself celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a long weekend in the beautiful City of Rome. While there we reflected on how sweet our life was and how fortunate we were to have three lovely children in Claire (19), Owen (16) and Sarah (15). However in the weekend following our return from Rome our perfect existence was to be torn apart.
In the early hours of Sunday morning the 20th of June a police sergeant called at our door with the news that our beautiful daughter, Sarah was being rushed by ambulance to the Ulster Hospital. She uttered the chilling words “your daughter has a very faint pulse but there are no respiratory signs”. Sarah had gone out that sunny Saturday afternoon to shop with friends in town. She was then going to a sleepover/end of term party at a friend’s house. We hugged her and told her to be careful in town and that we would see her the next morning.
When we got to the Hospital a nurse told us that they were working on Sarah and that we could wait in a small private room. After about twenty minutes a team of doctors and nurses came in to inform us that they had not been able to save our sweet and beautiful child.
The next few days were a nightmare as we struggled to come to terms with what had happened. Sarah’s funeral was the biggest that the local parlour had ever dealt with, a testimony to how popular our girl was. She had a wide circle of friends, had achieved a high level in ballet, attended speech and drama classes and was a very hardworking and very academic pupil.
Sarah’s death had been unexplained and it was not until almost 6 months later that a diagnosis of Sudden Arrhythmic Death (SADS) Syndrome was made. Subsequently through CRY we have learned that many families suffer a similar fate every year. Recommended tests on the family members has shown that our daughter Claire shows signs of having long QT Syndrome. Thankfully she is on medication and her condition is being monitored.
On the 2nd May this year some 76 teachers and pupils from Sarah’s school, Wellington College, ran relay legs in the Belfast Marathon in memory of Sarah. They had CRY t-shirts with Sarah’s picture printed on the front and managed to raise over £5,000 for the charity.
In the past year we have had two further anniversaries. The 22nd May 2011 would have been Sarah’s 16th birthday and on the 20th June 2011 we had to relive the nightmare of a year ago. The once happy word, anniversary, has taken on a different meaning for my family and myself.
Robert & Ita Booth