A HASLEMERE family who lost both a father and a teenage son to sudden cardiac death is hoping the heritary condition can now be detected, thanks to their fundraising efforts. Stephanie Hunter lost both her husband, Howard English, and her 15-year-old son, Sebastian within 10 years of each other. Sebastian died in February 2004 and his father died 10 years earlier at the age of 32. Both were keen rubgy players. Haslemere Rugby Club, ex-England player Simon Halliday and the schools Sebastian attended (Amesbury School and Lord Wandsworth College) have all joined in the efforts to raise £0.5 million for a new pathology lab in London's Royal Brompton Hospital, which was opened on Friday by top heart specialist Dr Mary Sheppard. At first it was thought Howard's death was a tragic one-off rather than an hereditary heart condition. However, it was later realised that his son, Sebastian, could have been saved if it had been revealed that he had suffered from the genetic heart condition that caused the death of his father. Stephanie, from Kingsley Green, Hammer, who was at the launch with Sebastian's step father Rupert Hunter, said: "After Howard died I had the children checked, but the condition is very difficult to diagnose and the pathologist had told me it was not genetic. But after Sebastian died I realised that I had got to do something about this. "Now we have raised a lot of money so that other families will be alerted and screened, and hopefully we can avoid multiple deaths in other families." Both Sebastian's brother, Titus, 15, and sister Sabrina, 17, have been screened and found to be free of the condition. Stephanie remarried and they have two children, Rory and Marcus. Since Sebastian died the Hunters have thrown themselves into a campaign run by the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) to raise awareness of heart abnormalities in young people that can lead to sudden death. An annual memorial match at Haslemere Rugby Club has also raised thousands for the cause. The new pathology unit will help analyse the cause of arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) – the condition both father and son died of. It is now known it is an inherited condition affecting one in 10,000 usually fit, active men between 14 and 35. Dr Sheppard said: "Sudden cardiac death has a devastating impact on families – coming 'out of the blue' with no warning and often no explanation. However, the service at our new CRY laboratories will enable us to play a small but vital part in helping people come to terms with their loss by providing the much sought after answers regarding the actual cause of death. "Once families have access to such information, the correct follow-up screening can take place. Only then, can medical professionals take steps to ensure that similar, unnecessary deaths are prevented in the future." The centre will allow coroners to refer cases directly and receive a full report of the actual cause of death, usually within two weeks. Currently, some families have to endure a wait of anything from three to 18 months for answers. Ex-rugby player Simon Halliday, who helped raise money, was also at the event. He was one of Howard's best friends and there when he died.
Family’s determination helps fund new heart lab
Friday 14th March 2008 12:00 am