Simple heart test that can save lives

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We lost our son Oliver in 2009 to a congenital heart defect (CHD) which could have been detected with a simple test (an echocardiogram).

This test can be carried out at Leeds General Infirmary following referral and when we had our third child Francesca they performed this procedure.

It was quick, painless and the team in Leeds were excellent and made it very simple to understand.

This department at LGI is under threat of closure which would mean if your readers required such a procedure they would have to travel to Newcastle – which would make this all the more difficult for most people.

Also, if the condition is then diagnosed it would mean the baby also being born in Newcastle which would mean more inconvenience for the parents and family travelling .

There is currently a campaign and review by Health Minister Jeremy Hunt scheduled for February 2013.

It would be great to get the backing of The Star and your readers to support this important cause.

We are also putting in some small personal effort supporting Tiny Tickers, a charity raising funds for additional equipment and training to help diagnose CHDs prior to birth as the best solution.

Myself and my partner Keely are running the marathon in London in September 2013 called Run To The Beat.

If anyone wants to join us they are more than welcome, or they can sponsor us.

You can find all the details at

The journey we have been on has certainly been horrific and not something we want anyone to go through.

However, at our time of grief we found real support from two sources in particular which may help other readers if they find themselves in this situation.

Firstly, we would like to recognise the magnificent support given to us by funeral directors John Fairest.

Their personal touch and understanding was first class as they took control and organised everything for us in a compassionate and effortless way.

They even refused to charge us for most of the funeral costs which again made a huge difference, not to have this financial burden at this difficult time.

We would like to say a huge thank you to all the team at John Fairest and in particular Neil who was a tower of strength for both of us. We will never forget their support.

Secondly, at the time of our grief, unfortunately we took the decision not to go for counselling which with hindsight turned out to be a mistake.

When the grief eventually caught up with us, and it always does, we were fortunate enough to find Dawn White from The Happiness Concern in Sheffield.

Dawn really has been our saviour and helped us to make it through our grief, supporting us to move forward together as a couple.

You know how much we appreciate your work, thank you Dawn.

Finally, we would like to say a massive thank you to The Star for listening to our story and helping us to let other couples in Sheffield know the risks of CHDs, which has helped us to try to make some good from our heartbreaking experience.

Mark Short and Keely Townsend