A courageous couple whose son died suddenly five years ago have turned grief to hope by funding hundreds of free heart tests in Lancashire.
As Paula and Barry Hesmondhalgh launch a bumper new year raffle they have vowed to carry on fund-raising for more CRY (Cardiac Risk in The Young) screening tests.
Their legacy project follows their son Matthew’s tragic death at the age of 22.
Matthew collapsed in 2011 on an evening out in Bilsborrow from Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS).
Since then the Catterall couple have raised £60,000 and funded 603 heart tests. There will be more free screening tests in February.
Paula said: “When you lose someone so suddenly pain envelops every part of your life and every part of your being. We have no choice but to cope.
It just makes sense to have young people tested. Our key message is screening can and does save lives
“But I know we are not alone. Others feel all the brokenness and there are so many tears. But it’s all so needless when a small test can identify so many of those at risk.
“It’s been acknowledged that one in 300 young people aged 14-45 has an underlying heart abnormality that makes them at increased risk of cardiac arrest.
“It just makes sense to have young people tested. Our key message is screening can and does save lives.”
Paula, said goodbye to her son as he set off to Owd Nell’s Tavern at Bilsborrow. But he never came home. He collapsed at the pub on August 15, 2011.
The grief has not gone but Paula and Barry, a building technician at Preston City Council, decided to put their tragedy to potentially life-saving use by fund-raising to provide heart checks through CRY and by raising awareness of undetected heart problems among the young.
Of those screened so far, 18 were identified as needing further follow-up tests.
The couple have raised £60,000 so far though a range of activities including cake sales, coffee mornings, quizzes and a fashion evening.
Paula said her son was a ‘kind, caring young man’.
“He did a lot of fund-raising for other people,” she said. “He was such a character. Our heartbreak may never end, but we just feel so blessed to have had Matt in our lives.
“Almost every week this year we’ve been involved in something, either raising awareness of cardiac risks of putting an event on.
“People have been amazing – our young friends and his. This year we’ve probably raised about £13,500.”
Over the years they have also travelled far and wide across the country to support events arranged in Matt’s memory.
n Tickets, priced £2, are on sale now for the fund-raising raffle. Top prize is a weekend in the Lake District.
See The Matthew Hesmondhalgh Memorial Fund-CRY page on Facebook or call Paula on 07785 106976 for details.