In conjunction with the charity C-R-Y (Cardiac Risk in the Young), Bexleyheath Academy has completed a two-day screening programme for its students and staff aged between 14 and 35 years. After the tragic loss of one for our Year 11 students, Philip Lamin, on 5 February 2013, Bexleyheath Academy is one of a handful of educational establishments in the UK that has made the decision to run such a programme for its staff and students. C-R-Y’s mission is to identify those that are most at risk from sudden cardiac death.
Tracey Boswell, Head of Year 7, said ‘It’s hard to believe that a young person who appears fit and healthy, like Philip, might be at risk from a heart problem.” However, every week in the UK, at least 12 apparently fit and healthy young people aged 35 and under die from undiagnosed heart conditions.
Sudden Death Syndrome is an umbrella term used for the many different types of cardiac arrest in young people. These conditions include the thickening or abnormal structure of the heart and irregularities of the impulses that upset the natural rhythm of the heart. Sporty youngsters stress their heart the most. If they have an underlying cardiac abnormality, they are more likely to be at risk. It is important to stress that exercise is NOT bad for you and sport itself does not lead to cardiac arrest, but it can act as a trigger for a young person to die suddenly by exacerbating an undetected condition.
Professor Sanjay Sharma, a leading expert on inherited cardiac conditions and his team of qualified cardiac physiologists screened 163 students and staff who all received an Electrocardiogram (ECG). From this initial test, 5 of these young people were then sent for an Echocardiogram (ECHO). Of these 5 young people, 3 were given the all clear and 2 have been referred on to a hospital for further investigation. Professor Sanjay said that “the fact that 2 young people need further investigation has made the whole programme so worthwhile.”
Tracey Boswell, Head of Year and Anne Bristow, Year 7 Welfare and Guidance Assistant said they were both extremely pleased at how well the screening programme had run. It was a day of very mixed emotions for all those involved, but none less for Philip’s mother, Juliet, who was on hand to offer her support and reassurance to those young people being screened. They all agreed that no-one involved in the screening programme wanted any of their staff and students to be referred on for further treatment. But the fact that 2 young people are now going to be investigated further means that the screening programme has been a success and should, hopefully, help to reinforce the message that this can happen to anyone.