Help fight the killer that strikes without warning

Daniel Antcliffe
Daniel Antcliffe
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IT was a Sunday afternoon when Tracey Antcliffe received the phone call that is every parent’s worst nightmare.

Her beloved, seemingly healthy 16-year-old son Daniel, who was staying over at a friend’s house, had died.

Daniel’s pals had been unable to wake the Dinnington Comprehensive pupil and were horrified to discover he had stopped breathing.

Tracey buried her son in January 2009 thinking he had died of a drug overdose – the police explanation.

But a few months later post-mortem results revealed there had been no trace of harmful drugs in his body.

Tracey, aged 37, who lives in Whiston, Rotherham, with her four-year-old daughter Lucy, started researching why her son had suddenly died.

An independent review found Daniel had been killed by a genetic problem of his heart - SADS.

The problem is inherited, passed on from parents to children.

Tracey and Daniel’s father Paul Farmer have since been screened for the condition, and Lucy is to have a scan every year until she is 16.

An innovative service at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital is now trying to tackle the problem of inherited heart conditions.

It is treating people who are diagnosed and screening family members who are at risk of sudden heart failure.

The Inherited Cardiac Conditions service, the first of its kind in the country, was set up by Professor Nigel Wheeldon, who appointed the first specialist nurse, Aliceson O’Beirne, back in 2005.

Aliceson said: “We have about one case a month when a young person drops down dead.

“With these inherited conditions the chance of passing a condition on to a child is 50 per cent – so it is important to screen relatives.

“It is of course a difficult time for families – they are grieving and then they discover there is a risk of the condition being passed on.”

In the last six years the nurse-led clinics have seen 2,700 patients and the hospital has just appointed its third nurse, Jane Arnold, to help expand the service.

The new post has been funded for one year by the South Yorkshire Heart Appeal – which is showcased by The Star this week to mark National Heart Month.

But they need more money to keep the service going for longer.

Tracey Antcliffe said: “It is really good the service is being expanded.

“Very few people are aware of these heart conditions, so it is very important to raise awareness.”

The service screens and treats people for SADS, cardiomyopathy, for arterial disorders and for muscular dystrophy.

n To donate to the South Yorkshire Heart Appeal call 0114 2263517.