Father of SADS victim encourages young people to get their heart checked against “hidden killer”

Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS) describes the unexpected death of young people from cardiac arrest. Each year in Ireland, approximately 100 people under 35 years old die from the disorder.

James Hayes is the father of 26-year-old Kevin who died of SADS in 2017 during the write-up stage of his PhD at the University of Limerick. Kevin died in his sleep and did not exhibit any symptoms prior to his passing.

If Kevin had received a cardiac screening, his father Mr Hayes believes there is “about an 80 percent chance” he could have been diagnosed and treated so that “he would still be with us today”. 

Mr Hayes stresses to young people that they need to get checked even if they regularly exercise. He says: “In Kevin’s case, in a lot of people’s cases, they are fit and healthy young people. But SADS is a hidden killer so you do need to take action.”

Dr. Alan Watts encouraging young people to get an ECG to check their heart.

Young people can get their heart checked by an electrocardiogram (ECG) at a hospital or GP clinic. Dr Alan Watts from the University of Limerick says the screening is “non-invasive, doesn’t hurt, and takes about 30 seconds”.

Mater Foundation Community and Events Specialist Angela McNulty says: “The key message is not to be afraid to get tested. SADS is a serious thing and it needs to be looked after. There’s no harm in getting tested. It’s a simple thing.”

Co-founder of the Dillon Quirke Foundation Dan Quirke is pushing for free ECGs so young people get the necessary healthcare. He says: “Our plan is to lobby the Government around September because there should be free screening to all young boys and girls. We will make a difference.”

The National Ambulance Service hopes to register Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) for 24/7 accessibility where people can be directed to the closest defibrillator through their phone. Mr Hayes adds: “If we only saved one or two lives, that would be great.” 

Mater Foundation Community and Events Specialist Angela McNulty says “there’s no harm in getting tested” for a heart condition.

CPR and defibrillator advocate Tara Jones speaks on the importance of more accessible defibrillators after her own sudden cardiac arrest in March: “I wouldn’t be here today only thanks to the people who performed CPR, rang 999, and ran with the defibrillator.”

The University of Galway is currently researching one type of SADS condition called Long QT syndrome in hopes of a potential cure. The Mater Family Heart Screening Clinic is also looking for funding that will pay for advanced life-saving technology to detect genetic heart conditions.

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