Sunday, 21 April 2024
Sunday, 21 April 2024

Lifesaving heart screenings take place in memory of former school pupil

A hundred students at Allestree Woodland School received potentially lifesaving heart screenings thanks to fundraising by the parents of former student Sam Wright.

Sam collapsed outside his Allestree home in 2011 after coming back from a run.

He died of sudden cardiac arrest and the cause was classed as sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS). He was 19.

Since then, his parents, Elaine and Kevin, have tirelessly raised funds and awareness of SADS, setting up Sam’s Memorial Fund in his memory.

As well as fundraising events, they have also received donations from individuals and companies, such as Toyota.

They have put this money towards the charities CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young), and SADS UK as well as using it to buy defibrillators.

On Saturday (March 4), CRY held a heart screening event at Allestree Woodlands School, paid for with £5,000 from Sam’s Memorial Fund. 

Elaine said:

“Sam’s death was devastating. We are still devastated. But we would like to think that Sam would be proud that we are doing this in his memory, to hopefully save another young person from losing their life and another family from being devastated.”

The private screening event booked up nearly instantly and saw 100 pupils receive an electrocardiogram or ECG. The test examines the electrical activity within the heart and takes up to 10 minutes.

If any abnormalities are detected, they require a follow-up echocardiogram (ECHO) which can show physical signs of the heart, measure its dimensions and see the flow of blood in and out of it.

Elaine and Kevin have held eight screening events since setting up Sam’s fund and said there are normally around two people at each one who require follow-up examinations.

For those who are found to have an underlying condition, there are treatment options, such as ICDs which are implantable defibrillators that can correct electrical pulses in the heart if they malfunction, medication and even lifestyle modifications such as avoiding certain endurance sports. The important message is that in 80% of cases, there will have been no symptoms or warning signs and therefore proactive, cardiac screening will often be the only way to identify a ‘hidden’ defect.

Danish footballer, Christian Eriksen, has such a device fitted after he went into Sudden Cardiac Arrest during Denmark’s opening game against Finland in the Euros in 2020. Medical staff gave CPR and used a defibrillator which shocked his heart back into rhythm and saved his life.

Kevin said:

“Every week 12 young people die of undiagnosed heart conditions in the UK. In Italy, heart screening is mandatory for young people and adults who compete in sports and that has cut down deaths by 89%. In the UK that doesn’t happen. We just want to be able to help as many people as we can.”

The tests are not available on the NHS without an underlying cause for referral and paying for the tests as an individual, privately, would cost around £500.

Gemma Penney, head teacher at Allestree Woodlands School, said:

“We are hugely grateful to Elaine and Kevin for paying for this screening event for pupils. These screenings could prove lifesaving. They are hugely appreciated by staff, parents and pupils, which was shown by how quickly the spaces filled up. We are also pleased to be providing the venue for three further screening days this year, two that are private and a further one for pupils in our school.”

As well as the screenings, Sam’s Memorial Fund has paid for defibrillators which the couple already know have saved a life.

Kevin said:

“I got a phone call a couple of years ago to say the defibrillator at Allestree Woodlands School had been used on an adult who had been at the school for a sports club he attended and that it had saved his life. I was really taken aback but that is what we do this for.”

Sam had studied at Allestree Woodlands School before going on to the University of Derby to train to become a teacher.

A keen volunteer, he had also been involved with the local Scouts and had completed his Duke of Edinburgh award to gold level. His parents were invited to receive his award from the Duke of Edinburgh posthumously.

Following last weekend’s screening event, Elaine and Kevin are holding another private screening event for the Scouts and Toyota staff.

Kevin and Elaine say they want more awareness about cardiac risk in young people. Elaine attends every screening event personally, to explain their importance and why they are being held – in memory of Sam.

Elaine concluded:

“The events are emotionally draining but we really want Sam’s memory to go on and to raise awareness about cardiac risk in the young.”

To find out more about heart screening in the young, visit CRY’s website: www.c-r-y.org.ukFor more information about CRY’s screening programme, please go to: www.testmyheart.org.uk.

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