The Shocking Truth Portrayed In Hard-Hitting New Campaign:
Sudden Cardiac Death Strikes Young, “Fit” People In Their Prime
Short film screened for the first time at House of Commons awareness event tracks moments leading up to “fatal” collapse on the rugby pitch
The national charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young, CRY (during its annual raising awareness week) is unveiling a new campaign to demonstrate the sudden, spontaneous and shocking nature of cardiac death in young people – especially in those involved in “grass roots” sports.
The film follows a teenage boy on the rugby pitch, in the moments leading up to his sudden collapse on the field in front of team-mates and supporters. Tragically, this mirrors the experience of many bereaved parents who approach CRY for support – and often, seeking answers – in the aftermath of their devastating loss.
It was developed for CRY by David Lynch, an Assistant Producer at global creative agency, BBH London. The campaign was funded by a charitable grant awarded to David through BBH’s internal charitable grant scheme*.
Officially launched Wed 26 November 2014 at a prestigious event at the House of Commons as part of CRY Awareness Week, the new campaign sets out to emphasise the importance of cardiac screening amongst young people (that is, aged 14-35) and the need for unexplained symptoms (such as fainting, blackouts and palpitations) to be explored appropriately and not dismissed.
Every week in the UK, 12 apparently fit and healthy young (35 and under) people die suddenly from a previously undiagnosed heart condition. In around 80-90% of cases, there will have been no signs, symptoms or warnings – underlining the vital role of screening. Indeed, CRY’s national screening programme now tests around 15,000 young people every year and it is estimated that one in 300 young people aged 35 and under who are tested by CRY are found to carry a potentially life threatening condition. *The film was directed by AG Rojas at Park Pictures, for no fee http:// http://filemailer.beam.tv/gfbPrdqbNx/jgdQbmxkWh
Sport itself does not cause young sudden cardiac death but intensive physical activity - particularly endurance sports such as rowing, rugby, football and long distance running - can exacerbate an underlying condition.
Sue Dewhirst’s only son Matthew died suddenly playing rugby in July 2012. He was aged just 17 1⁄2 and collapsed and died during rugby training at his school, Ellesmere College. Since Matthew’s tragic death, Sue has become a loyal supporter and active campaigner for CRY. Sue, from Shropshire, says; “Matthew’s death absolutely devastated our family - and our entire community. Like so many of the parents and partners who have been so tragically affected by sudden cardiac death, our first question was “Why”? How could our extremely fit and healthy boy suddenly go?” Unlike most other families, Matthew had symptoms for nine years, which we now know were warning signs prior to his death.
Year after year he had been passing out on the rugby pitch, only to be told every time by the emergency doctors that it was either stress, migraine or dehydration and that “you only had to look at him to know that there was nothing wrong with his heart”. She adds; “I don’t blame anyone for what happened, even though it was suggested that I complain about the advice we’d been given. What’s the point, he wasn’t coming back. So I did what I usually do, go into organising mode. I was determined that Matthew’s death wouldn’t be forgotten and that others would know why he died so that it would raise awareness and stop other families being ripped apart as ours had been.
“In my mind the message is clear - just be aware! If your child, husband, partner is displaying heart symptoms, then get it checked out and don’t let it be dismissed. If, ike the majority of teenagers and young people, there are no symptoms, then please consider having cardiac screening, which is nationally available through CRY’s screening programme.
Watching this film was really, really tough for my husband Chris and I, but I am very proud to be part of this campaign that CRY is driving forward to tackle the issue at grass roots level in sport. Most young people play some kind of sport. These deaths are indiscriminate and to have such a hard hitting initiative is just what we need to ram the message home. Life will never be the same for us again but our thanks go to CRY for giving us this opportunity to achieve something in Matt’s name.”
CRY’s screening programme is overseen by Professor Sanjay Sharma (Professor of Inherited Cardiovascular Disease and Sports Cardiology at St George’s Hospital London and Medical Director of the Virgin London Marathon). Prof Sharma makes no charge for supervising the CRY screening programme, so with his support CRY is able to subsidise the programme so that each appointment only costs £35. Privately these tests could cost in excess of £200.
Dr Steven Cox, CRY’s Director of Screening 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 knows about it and, if necessary, takes the appropriate steps to avoid putting their life at risk. This could include medical or surgical treatment or caution when taking part in some sports or when taking specific medications.”
An ECG (electrocardiogram) test is a simple way to identify most of these abnormalities. The test is quick and painless. If necessary a further echocardiogram (ultrasound scan of the heart) can be taken to provide further clarity.
Dr Cox adds: “At CRY, we 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 around 90%.”
David Lynch, who wrote and produced this new film concludes; “This has been a particularly emotive and rewarding campaign to work on. We are all delighted with the results and are confident that the ad will make an immediate impact on young people, their parents and sports coaches.
“We were inspired to make this film and to work with CRY due to my knowing someone who was helped by the charity. Once we began production, it became clear that so many of the people who helped us had also been affected – or knew someone who had been affected – in some way.
“We know the ad is very high impact but the experts at CRY have gone to great lengths to ensure that their bereaved families have been forewarned about the content. We felt we had a responsibility to make this as “realistic” as possible to ensure CRY’s messages were delivered powerfully and effectively.”