Family’s fundraising to save young lives

LIFESAVERS: Lee Phillips shows off the defibrillator he hopes will prevent young people from dying like his sister Rebecca did.
LIFESAVERS: Lee Phillips shows off the defibrillator he hopes will prevent young people from dying like his sister Rebecca did.
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The family of a young Hadleigh woman who died from a heart condition have raised £8,500 to help prevent 100 people from suffering the same fate.

Rebecca Phillips, who lived in Bradfield Crescent, collapsed and died at a birthday party aged 25 in November 2011. She was found to have an undiagnosed heart defect which caused her death.

Spurred on by the tragedy, her mother Julie and brother Lee have been busy raising money to provide diagnostic scans for 100 people aged between 14 and 35 in Hadleigh in May with help from heart charity Cry.

“Rebecca’s condition didn’t come to light until it was too late,” said Lee, 32, from Aldham Road.

“People just don’t know about these things. It is terrible and these screenings can help as if it is diagnosed then you can do something about it.”

The family were all screened for similar heart defects and given the all clear. They raised the money through donations and events including a fete at St Mary’s Primary School and music nights at The Brewer’s Arms in Polstead.

“It has been tough going but everybody has been wonderful,” said Julie, who reserved special praise for Cry, which stands for cardiac risk in the young.

“It offered support, counselling, bereavement help for family members and it is still in contact – we would never have got through this without them,” said Julie, who lives in Elwood Close.

“Cry helped us through the grief and put us in touch with other families affected by similar things,” said Lee.

Julie and Lee were joined by representatives from Cry, Hadleigh town councillors and the East of England Ambulance Service at the unveiling of a new defibrillator at the East of England Co-op store last Tuesday.

The life-saving equipment is one of 50 kits being installed in communities by the supermarket chain, funded by £250,000 of its profits from tobacco sales.

Wendy Risdale-Barr, community partnership manager at the East of England Ambulance Service, said: “The faster you can get a defibrillator to a patient requiring it the better – the first eight minutes after a heart attack are crucial.”

The defibrillator is located near the back entrance to Hadleigh Co-op, next to the cash machine.

Mrs Risdale-Barr explained that, in the event of a heart attack, people can call 999 to ask for an ambulance and they can be given a pin code to unlock the defibrillator.

The equipment contains instructions and gives voiced commands taking the user through the steps required to administer chest compressions, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and, when necessary, a shock to the patient’s heart.

Community first responders carry their own machines, so those fitted at supermarkets and in communities are designed to be used when such help is unavailable.

“The defibrillator here will potentially save a lot of lives,” said Mrs Risdale-Barr. “People feel supported knowing it is there.”

Lee added: “This wouldn’t have saved Rebecca but, now it is there, some people can be saved.

“If you are having to wait for an ambulance to come, it can be critical. This equipment can be the difference.”

For more information on conditions that can lead to sudden death syndrome and young sudden cardiac death, go to www.c-r-y.org.uk.