“We would not have got through the past year without them”

Friends & family of local man who died suddenly from hidden heart condition pledge to raise funds and awareness for the cardiac charity who provided support

Just 12 months ago (22 February 2021) the Parris family (who all live in the Hastings area) were left devastated following the sudden and tragic death of their son and brother, Daniel, from a previously undiagnosed heart condition. Dan – who was engaged to be married to his ‘teenage sweetheart’, Holly, was aged just 23 when he collapsed and died without warning. The couple shared a daughter, Olivia, who was just 5 months old at the time of his passing.

Later this month, as part of a huge effort (from friends, family and the local community) to ensure that “some good” can come from Dan’s sudden and untimely death, a team of seven runners will be taking part in the Hastings Half Marathon (Sunday March 20th) to raise funds for the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) – a national organisation which provided vital care for the Parris family including specialist bereavement support and expert guidance as they navigated the UK’s pathology and Coroner’s services during ‘lockdown’ as they sought to understand the cause of Dan’s death.

The team will be led by Dan’s brother, Matthew (29), a local police officer who was on duty at the time and attended the scene, he has been deeply affected by the tragedy. He will be joined by four of Dan’s closest, local friends, their cousin, and a colleague of Nicky’s.

Dan’s mum, Nicky says; “A year ago, our whole world was literally torn apart. Dan was fit, healthy and doing so well in his career as an electrician, having started a successful apprenticeship with local company, JenCo, aged 16. He had his whole future ahead of him, with his beautiful fiancé and new daughter, and we just can’t believe he’s no longer with us. As everyone says… he really was a lovely, kind and gentle man and we miss him desperately.”

“Although we were in the middle of another period of ‘lockdown’, the day Dan died started off as just another ordinary day. As an electrician, he was allowed to go out to work, so left the house he shared with Holly and Olivia and headed off to a local residential property where he’d been booked to fit some wall-lights.

“Tragically, not long after Dan arrived at the address he collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. At the time of Dan collapsing the homeowner who was present, called for an ambulance and bravely performed CPR. Police arrived on scene first, followed by an ambulance and a short while after, Matthew. Sadly, despite prolonged efforts of police and paramedics, Dan succumbed to his cardiac arrest and died at the scene with his brother Matthew by his side”

Matthew said “This extremely tough life lesson has really empathised to me the importance of raising awareness of SADS and the diagnosis of hidden heart conditions. Not only this, but it has also highlighted to me the importance of administering CPR and how crucial it is to have the early use of a defibrillator. (Statistics to date show the significance of imminent use of a defib and how quickly the survival rate drops within passing minutes).1”

Due to Covid restrictions in 2021, only 30 people were permitted to attend Dan’s funeral and a wake was not allowed to go ahead.

The Parris family now hope that the Hastings Half Marathon and a charity collection day at Bexhill United FC on 12th March will give Dan’s friends and colleagues the chance to finally come together to pay their respects and celebrate his life.

Nicky adds; “Dan was such an important part of all of our lives – he was a wonderful son and brother to his siblings Matthew and Kiera, an amazing fiancé to his partner Holly, loving daddy to Olivia, and a brilliant friend, a key part of a group of mates who’d been together with since primary school. He was always the reliable and dependable one – the one they used to call ‘Big Daddy’. But to me, he’ll always be my baby boy.”

As well as the Hastings’ Half Marathon, a range of other events such as Golf Days (thanks to Tony’s former colleagues at Sedlescombe Golf Club), staff fundraising at the Santander Bank where Kiera works are all contributing to the Memorial Fund. The family would also like to thank JenCo for sponsoring the running shirts for the Half Marathon and Sally, Andy, Kim and Ann for their previous fundraising walks.

Every week in the UK, around 12 young people (that is aged 35 and under) die suddenly from a previously diagnosed heart condition.  80% of these deaths will occur with no prior symptoms – which is why CRY is so committed to the importance of specialist, cardiac screening. CRY also funds pioneering research into the conditions that can cause young sudden cardiac death as well as providing a unique bereavement support network for all families who have been affected.

CRY’s screening programme now tests around 32,000 young people (aged 14-35) every year in the UK. Although it won’t identify all young people at risk, in Italy, where screening is mandatory for all young people engaged in organised sport, they have reduced the incidence of young sudden cardiac death by 90%. This is because sport – whilst it does not actually cause sudden cardiac death – can significantly increase a young person’s risk if they have an underlying condition.

CRY’s screening programme is overseen by its Consultant Cardiologist Professor Sanjay Sharma, Professor of Inherited Cardiovascular Disease and Sports Cardiology at St George’s Hospital London. He is also the Medical Director of the Virgin London Marathon. Professor Sharma makes no charge for supervising CRY’s screening team and due to this support, the programme is significantly subsidised.

Dr Steven Cox, Chief Executive of CRY adds: “It takes great courage and determination for anyone who has been affected by young sudden cardiac death to be able to see beyond their own situation and to want to raise funds for CRY and prevent other people from ever having to endure the same devastating grief as they have experienced. 

“On behalf of all of us at CRY, I would like to say a huge “thank you” to Matthew and the rest of the team running in the Hastings Half marathon for their ongoing fundraising and support. As well as helping to raise vital funds, this event will also raise significant awareness for CRY among the local community and right across the South Coast. 

“By speaking so publicly about their own personal and very recent experience, we know they will also help to spark conversation and awareness amongst many teenagers and young adults who, all too often, are simply not aware of the prevalence of sudden cardiac death in young people or the steps that can be taken to help protect themselves and others.

“This might include signing up for screening, being aware of their family’s ‘heart history’ and recognising possible symptoms, however rare they might be. We would also encourage wider training in CPR and the provision of defibrillators in the community. The UK needs a comprehensive approach to stop these deaths.”

Please follow this link if you would like to support the team taking part in the Hastings Half Marathon in memory of Dan Parris: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/matt-parris