A mum whose son’s life was cut short by sudden death syndrome has teamed up with a leading heart charity to help others who have suffered the same tragedy.
This Mothering Sunday, bereavement experts from Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) will be unveiling a powerful and moving new book for mums whose child has died from sudden cardiac arrest.
The booklet - Young Sudden Cardiac Death: A Mother’s Grief - features 10 chapters from women, including Nicola Merriman of Warners End, Hemel Hempstead, who recount and talk through their personal experience of suddenly losing their son or daughter to a previously undiagnosed heart condition.
In July 2012, Nicola’s son Richard died while playing football with a friend’s child in the park - it was just weeks before his wedding day.
A stranger performed CPR but despite his best efforts was unable to save Richard, who was aged just 27.
The post-mortem examination revealed that Richard had a condition known as ARVC - arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy.
Nicola said: “I really just wanted to help other bereaved mums because it was hell what I went through and it still is. I have to live with it everyday.
“It helped me a lot when CRY sent me a bereavement booklet so I felt I wanted to give back.”
The booklet, compiled by CRY’s chief executive, founder and former bereavement counsellor Alison Cox MBE is part of the charity’s grief series, which also includes help for dads, siblings and partners.
Alison said: “The grief, the numbness, the barren despair of a mother dealing with the inexplicable sudden death of an apparently fit and healthy child, with no time to say goodbye establishes young sudden cardiac death at the cutting edge of grief. It is so out of order with the sequence of life that its effects are devastating. And then, to then learn that her child was carrying a genetic undiagnosed heart condition - leaving other children at risk until they have been screened - leaves her not only with her tragedy but also living with the terror that they too could be affected.
“It is my hope this booklet will not only help affected mothers, but also others to better understand why mum has such a massive battle to reinvent herself. Talking to someone outside your immediate family is often the most helpful way forward. These feelings can go deep inside and if you bottle them up, thinking you have them under control, they will probably resurface later. Expressing and recognising such feelings can help in your life’s journey to reconstruct a world that you know will never be the same again.”
Every week in the UK, 12 young people die suddenly from a previously undiagnosed heart condition. 80 per cent of these young people have no signs or symptoms and so the only way to detect a potentially sinister cardiac abnormality is by having a CRY screening test.
Since Richard’s death, Nicola has organised a screening day at her son’s former school John F Kennedy to get youngsters checked for heart defects.
The event, held last year, identified two young people who need further medical attention and Nicola is planning another similar event at the secondary school next year. She needs to raise £3,500 to pay for the screening day.
To donate visit www.justgiving.com/Nicola-merriman
CRY’s Bereavement Support Programme offers telephone support through volunteers who have suffered the sudden cardiac death of a child, sibling or partner and who received two years of counselling training.
CRY also holds regional and national bereavement support events across the UK for families who have been affected by young sudden cardiac death.
To find out more about the charity click here