Lifestyle Health

Friday 20 April 2018

Mum saved daughter's life thanks to heart check

Maureen Kelly and her daughter Eleanor hold up a picture of Darragh, who died of SADS when he was 21.
Maureen Kelly and her daughter Eleanor hold up a picture of Darragh, who died of SADS when he was 21.

Fiona Ellis

A woman who lost her son to sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS) saved her youngest daughter's life because she was "like a dog with a bone" and insisted her family get screened for potentially deadly heart problems.

Maureen Kelly told how her son Darragh (21) was a "very healthy, fit kid" when he dropped dead from SADS on October 1, 2003.

In the days leading up to his death the young sports enthusiast, who was studying construction engineering in Dundalk Institute, was suffering flu-like symptoms.

"He played rugby, soccer and Gaelic all his life. Losing him was the worst nightmare you could ever imagine. It's just devastating. Part of me died with Darragh," said the mother from Greystones, Co Wicklow.

With not much known about SADS at the time, Maureen was determined to have her husband Matthew, and three daughters Orla, Ruth and Eleanor screened for heart arrhythmia problems.

She was eventually referred to Dr Joe Galvin, who went on to found the Family Heart Screening Centre at the Mater Hospital, which costs €300,000 a year to run.

And her determination resulted in her youngest daughter Eleanor being diagnosed with Long QT syndrome – one of the conditions that can cause SADS. Eleanor, now 26, was fitted with a defibrillator in 2005.

Just six months later she suffered a potentially deadly cardiac arrhythmia. The defibrillator saved her life and since then she has had four episodes.

"It's very possible she would have died if I hadn't been like a dog with a bone," said Maureen.

"Her life has definitely been saved. It gives fantastic peace of mind. Eleanor lives a normal life, with some limitations."

Every week in Ireland one person under the age of 35 dies from SADS.

Heart Appeal month is now under way at the Mater Foundation and is aiming to raise much-needed funds for the Mater Hospital's Family Heart Screening Clinic.

Irish Independent

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