Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 13.59.56Every week, 12 apparently fit and healthy young people die in the UK from undiagnosed heart conditions. Now, leading heart charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) is making people aware of a simple and quick ECG test that could save hundreds of lives each year.

To demonstrate the point, CRY held its fifth ECG screening clinic in Ponteland where young people, aged between 14 and 35, were tested. Previous donations made in memory of Ponteland’s Mathew Thoppil – who tragically died in May 2005 from young sudden cardiac death (YSCD), aged just 31,funded 100 free screenings during the day. Out of those young people screened, three people were referred for further investigations that could lead to young lives being saved.

Simone Sansom who helped organise the screening and is a family friend of Mathew, said; “I was as shocked and heart broken as everyone else to hear of Mathew’s sudden death.  Mathew was a keen sportsman and cricket fan, so to hear that he had collapsed and died whilst playing squash was incomprehensible.  A post-mortem revealed Mathew had advanced Ischaemic heart disease, and although he was a young GP aged 31 and the condition runs in the family, Mathew never experienced any of the warning signs”.

Simone added; “Through fundraising with Mathew’s family we have achieved our goal of providing a cardiac screening programme for Ponteland, brought in to identify potentially-vulnerable young people.  Philip, Mathews father, felt very strongly that everything possible should be done to detect and warn potentially vulnerable young people”.

“We are all very grateful for everyone who came to the screening and to Andy Anderson and Rev. Tim Thorpe for allowing the screening clinic to be held at the Methodist church.”

An ECG (electrocardiogram) test is a simple way to identify the vast majority of abnormalities that can cause sudden deaths in young people. The test is quick, non-invasive and painless and if necessary a further echocardiogram (ultrasound scan of the heart) can be taken on the same day to provide further clarity or reassurance.

Chief Executive of CRY, Dr Steven Cox, explains: “The death of a young person is heart-breaking and devastating for any family. It is therefore essential that anyone with a potentially fatal heart condition know about it. Without this knowledge and, if necessary, appropriate treatment, they could be putting their lives at risk as in 80% of cases there are no signs or symptoms. Sport itself does not actually cause sudden cardiac death but it can significantly increase a young person’s risk if they have an underlying condition. However, research carried out by CRY has also shown that a large number of these deaths will also occur when a young person is at rest or even sleeping.”

Dr Cox added: “CRY is in its 20th year and we are so proud that our screening programme now tests around 23,000 young people annually. But we still believe screening needs to be extended to all young people. Although screening will not identify all those at risk, in Italy, where screening is mandatory for all young people engaged in organised sport, the incidence of young sudden cardiac death has been reduced by 90%.”

One young person who is engaged in sport is Benn Hardcastle from Newcastle Thunder RLFC who supported the event and was screened alongside Academy player, Hayden Williamson to raise awareness.

“You naturally assume that because you feel fit and healthy that heart disease can’t possibly affect you. How wrong can you be? CRY is able to subsidise the screening programme so that each appointment only costs £35. I’d urge anyone in the target age group to take the screening test. It could save their life,” said Benn.