Screen saver for hearts

Every week 12 young people aged between 14 and 35 drop dead from heart attacks.

Although fatal heart disorders are usually associated with overweight people in their ‘sunset years’, they can also strike people in the prime of life, leaving their families in shock over their sudden, premature death.

Sudden Death Syndrome is an umbrella terms for a range of heart conditions that affect young people, but often go undetected. Many sufferers die on the sports field or in the middle of school activities.

A new campaign, launched this month by Little Britain comic David Walliams, hopes to reduce the number of deaths by screening hearts of young people across the UK.

Armed with a state-of-the-art mobile screening unit, charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) aims to offer tests to more than 3,000 people in the UK in a bid to catch ticking timbebombs.

One family appreciates more than most the need for heart screening. Kasia Ber, a 17-year-old from County Durham, died in 2005 after the alarm on her mobile phone went off.

She had set the device to wake her early for some post-Christmas shopping, but the shock of being awoken by the noise triggered a fatal heart attack in the A-level student, who was to study law at university.

Her mother, Diane Ber, 46, says: “She went to the doctor with palpitations and shortness of breath shortly before she died, but they told her it was exam stress. She wasn’t taken seriously.

“Screening should exist because there may be other doctors who are not taking young people seriously.”

After her death doctors discovered Kasia suffered from the treatable heart disorder Long QT syndrome.

Medics also realised mum Diane had the syndrome, after previously believing her to suffer epilepsy and panic attacks. Diane’s sister also suffered a fatal heart attack two years before Kasia died.

But to the relief of Diane and husband John, 49, their son Christopher, who is now 17, does not have the condition.

Diane advises anyone whose relative has suffered a heart attack to get themselves checked out.

She says: “If a close relative has suffered something like this you should get screened, especially if you get other symptoms, such as heart palpitations.

“We wish more awareness had been around for us. We now just hope others don’t suffer.”

One of the hardest parts of losing her daughter, says Diane, is that she appeared to be fighting fit.

“She ate healthily and looked after herself and was so lively. But no-one knew what was going on inside.”

For more information about the test, go to