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Castletroy College raise thousands for Heart House in memory of former student Kevin Hayes

A cheque made out to the Mater Foundation (the umbrella group with responsibility for fundraising on behalf of Heart House) for €3,161 was presented to the late Kevin’s father, James Hayes. 

Students at Castletroy College spent their annual charity week fundraising for a cause close to the secondary school – Heart House, an organisation under the umbrella of the Mater Foundation. 

Raising a phenomenal €3,161 for the charity, Castletroy College used this opportunity to pay tribute to their former student, Kevin Hayes, who passed away unexpectedly from Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS) in 2017. 

In the final stages of his PhD studies in the University of Limerick, Kevin fell victim to the often symptomless condition, which affects between 70 and 100 Irish people under the age of 40 each year.

Since Kevin’s death, his father, James Hayes, has worked tirelessly to raise awareness around SADS – a condition described by the British Heart Foundation as “when someone dies suddenly and unexpectedly from a cardiac arrest, but the cause of the cardiac arrest can’t be found. A cardiac arrest is when your heart suddenly stops pumping blood around your body. This stops your breathing and starves your brain of oxygen.”

Speaking about SADS and the fundraising by Castletroy College, James said: “It’s over six years now since Kevin passed. We’re not conditioned in this day and age to accept the death of a child. It’s unnatural, it’s devastating, and it’s unacceptable from our point of view. We want to try and prevent others from landing in the same situation, and it’s so wonderful to see others willing to help. Money makes the world go ‘round, so for the likes of Heart House and Croí, if they don’t receive funding, they can’t do the research. That’s why this fundraising by Castletroy College means so much.”

Kevin Hayes

James continued: “For a still unknown reason, Ireland has a very high prevalence of SADS. We lose about 100 young people a year to it. Other European countries that have run studies, the numbers aren’t as high. In Ireland, the numbers amount to about three per 100 thousand of the population between 15 and 35, and it’s roughly two males to every female. We need an answer as to why it’s happening. 

“At the minute, there’s a lot of working going on to advance the genetic testing side. They have a genomics data base that they’re putting together. In some cases it’s an inherited condition, they haven’t isolated one gene yet as being the cause,” James added. 

“SADs comes under the umbrella of Sudden Cardiac Death in the young. In some cases there are symptoms, there are things that can be diagnosed. In Kevin’s case, when we received the post mortem report, the histology, the organs were all perfect, the toxicology report was clean – but he was gone. They attribute it to SADS when they just can’t find any other cause for it. Basically they say the electrics to the heart stop and that’s it – they’re gone. We console ourselves saying that he wouldn’t have been aware of it, he wouldn’t have been anxious, and he wouldn’t have suffered. But it’s such a tremendous tragedy. It’s a tragedy that unfortunately about 100 other families will suffer this year in Ireland.” 

Castletroy College fundraise for a different charity each year for their charity week. Extremely active in their community, the school make sure to choose something close to this community each year. At other points throughout the year, the students partake in different charity events, especially within the Transition Year programme. 

Padraig Flanagan and Declan Rice, Principal and Vice Principal of Castletroy College, spoke proudly of their students and teachers, informing Limerick Voice that this charity week was the most successful one they have had so far. 

“We would be very aware of the tragic loss of Kevin, and his family are held in very high esteem amongst our community. Castletroy College is a very active school – our students partake in a lot of sports and PE, and as this condition is so prevalent withing the sporting community, we thought this was the perfect charity to fundraise for this year,” Padraig Flanagan said.

Declan Rice added: “It was a very well thought out campaign – from the Monday, every teacher spoke to their students about Kevin and SADS and the effect it has had on our community. The parents were educated about the reason we were fundraising as well.” 

The money raised by Castletroy College will contribute to supporting additional resources and testing at Heart House, so that they can continue to minimise the impacts of SADS on young people across Ireland. 

Founded in 2007, the clinic has tested over 11,000 people for inherited cardiac conditions. Early detection is essential when it comes to SADS, with genetic testing and heart screenings used to detect if a person is at risk. 

To find out more information about Heart House – read here.

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