CRY stormed into the New Year with its busiest week to date and the fantastic news that Ian Botham OBE has agreed to be the Honorary President of CRY’s Centre for Sports Cardiology.
On Monday January 7 CRY’s Chairman Dr Greg Whyte and myself were invited by Ian and Kathy Botham to visit them at their home. In spite of their very tight schedule, including departure the following day for Spain followed by Ian’s tour to India and New Zealand, they found the time to take us out for a superb lunch to learn about CRY.
Ian first heard of CRY through Jay Lewin an old schoolfriend and now Assistant Manager of the Goldenstone Leisure Centre in Yeovil. The Centre started fundraising for an ECG machine in memory of Sarah Louise Williamson who died suddenly aged 7, in her father’s arms during a swimming session in the children’s pool at the centre. Jay broke her golden rule not to take advantage of her friendship with Ian and asked him to accept Goldenstone’s cheque for £7000 for CRY – and Ian broke into his recent book tour to fulfil this request.
On Wednesday January 9th, Lorraine Kelly had 6½ minutes on GMTV hearing from Keith Bucknell, accompanied by wife Debbie and daughter Jodie, about CRY and the sudden cardiac death of their son Jamie, 7 weeks earlier during an English class at school. Jamie had passed out twice before he died. The first time was in the swimming pool when it was “officially” decided he had hit his head, the second time he was taken into hospital and dismissed after tests.
The immense courage of the Bucknell family in being able to discuss this so soon after Jamie’s death in so public a forum, cannot be overstated. 6 million viewers learnt about CRY and our 3 telephone lines and website were jammed for the rest of the week. A special thank you to Sheila Clarke who kept in contact with Lorraine Kelly updating her on CRY’s development and our Patron Mark Cox who took the opportunity to mention CRY to presenter Andrew Castle when having an interview the previous week. As well as having our number displayed on the screen for most of the interview, CRY had a 24 hour hyperlink on the GMTV website – the fourth largest website for Television.
We are hugely grateful to the support of the Bucknell family in helping us raise awareness of Cardiac Risk in the Young in this way – giving the opportunity to highlight the incidence of young sudden cardiac death, information on how to pursue screening, and help to inform and reduce the isolation of bereaved families who have suffered from such a tragedy.
On Thursday January 10th CRY’s Trustee Dr Sanjay Sharma was invited to be the “expert” explaining Long QT Syndrome on Channel 4’s Richard and Judy show. This programme has a viewing audience of 2 million and was a prelude to the widely advertised programme Bitter Inheritance on Channel 2 later that evening. The story tracked the history of the Gorry “family curse” where 17 young members had mysteriously and suddenly died over a number of years, and in various parts of the world, with the diagnosis given as different causes – drowning, asthma, epilepsy, blood clots. It was not until Neil Halliday started compiling the family tree that he discovered the appalling catalogue of death and recognised that the family carried an undiagnosed genetic cardiac condition putting them horribly at risk.
Special thanks to Andy Tait who gave the programme presenter information about CRY ensuring we were one of the nominated referral organisations for this programme which had a viewing audience of 3 million. Also to Doreen Harley who contacted Neil Halliday (a neighbour in North Wales) who has been learning from her about CRY and our aims.
As a result of all of this publicity between January 9th and 18th we had 2607 hits on our website, 700 phone calls (500 in 3 days!) and still the requests for information are pouring in. The fortitude of our indefatigable CRY team who covered the response manning our 3 lines in carefully organised relays had to be seen to be fully appreciated. Answering the phone non-stop for hours at a time takes a very special skill and our CRY team had an abundance of it. We are lucky indeed.
I would just like to say how often those who contact us have expressed their gratitude for the solace given by those people on “Talking Point” who so freely give of their time to talk to and support other bereaved families. My experience is that although there are times when a professional counsellor is undoubtedly able to help, usually families will want to just talk to someone else who has gone through a similar experience to themselves – and survived. Our “Talking Point” families offer a very special service where, having learnt how to cope with their own grief, they have found a way to give comfort to others.
CRY’s office was certainly a hot spot in January and in spite of the blast of arctic weather that hit us at the time, the tin roof on our building was positively steaming with endeavour! February is going to be busy too! Whickham School, a huge secondary school in Newcastle has chosen CRY for their School Charity week from February 4 – 8 in memory of student Paul Hindmarsh who died in 1999 during a Newcastle United Football match.
This is the first time a school has dedicated an entire week of fundraising to CRY and it is being followed on February 21, 22, 23 by The Boat Club from University College London doing a 48 hour Rowathon raising money and awareness of CRY at Covent Garden. We have sent 25 red CRY T shirts for the ladies team and 25 black CRY T shirts (not so easy to spot in the middle of the night?) for the men so if you are in the London area any time in the 48 hours, “especially during those between midnight and breakfast”, they would be delighted if you could pop by and say hello.
Finally I would like to conclude by saying that, unbelievably, I have just had my first experience of CRY nostalgia! I was recently contacted by BBC TV who were wanting to talk to Maureen and John Marshall about a programme including a profile on the sudden death of their son John. John was one of 16 elite “cream of the country” junior footballers elected to attend the FA School of Excellence in Lilleshall. He died suddenly in 1995 at the end of his second year, on “caps” day just before he was due to join Everton, having been struggling with his fitness for sometime.
It was John and Maureen who launched CRY’s campaign with the national press in 1995 and campaigned with CRY for screening in football. Professor Bill McKenna and myself visited FA Chairman Keith Wiseman, Chief Executive Graham Kelly and Chief Executive of the Professional Football Association Gordon Taylor, to talk to them about the importance of a screening programme in football. Although sadly the FA did not progress their screening programme with CRY they have incorporated it for all their YTS squads since John’s tragic death. After John died the Marshall family went to live in South Africa for a time – it was great to hear that they have now resettled in Lancashire, talk about CRY’s development, and share with them the incredible progress we have made – that their courage kick started just 6 years ago.
By Alison Cox
Founder and Chief Executive