Bid to save lives like Jamie’s with roll-out of genetic tests

Jamie Skinner collapsed on the pitch while playing for Tynecastle BC U14s. Picture: Contributed
Jamie Skinner collapsed on the pitch while playing for Tynecastle BC U14s. Picture: Contributed
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A GENETIC testing service that may have benefited a tragic teenager who died playing football in a Capital park is to be rolled out across the UK.

Jamie Skinner was playing for his new team Tynecastle BC U’14s when he collapsed during a match at the Saughton Astro Pitch on December 22, 2013. The 13-year-old lost his life on the field despite the best efforts of ambulance staff and others to revive him.

His tragic death from a cardiac arrest was the catalyst for the Evening News’ Shockingly Easy campaign to fit life-saving defibrillators in sports venues across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has now launched a genetic testing initiative aimed at identifying people at risk of the inherited heart condition hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HMC) which can cause cardiac arrest without warning.

They hope the genetic testing service could help around 120,000 across the UK who could be living with the potentially-life threatening condition.

Karen Greechan, the cousin of Jamie Skinner, started a foundation in his honour which went on to raise thousands in tandem with the Evening News campaign.

Family and friends of Jamie, who was a pupil at Liberton High, questioned many times whether he could have been saved if a nearby defibrillator had been used and if he would have benefited from screening.

Karen said: “It’s fantastic news that heart screening is going to become available, it’s something we’ve thought about for the past three years since Jamie died. Would he still be alive if he had been screened?’ Yes, perhaps he would be.

“When we lost Jamie we were all so shocked, he was so fit and healthy and for it to happen so suddenly is what hit hardest.

“He was far too young to die of a cardiac arrest, or so we thought, it’s only since then that we’ve seen how much it affects the young and old. We were not aware if Jamie had HCM as he was never tested for it.

“We didn’t think any of our children needed tested, but in light of all the similar tragedies that are still happening it’s definitely a good idea.

“I think parents of children taking up sports should have the choice to have them tested, it’s something we feel should already be in place.”

The BHF launch has been backed by the family of Sir David Frost after his son Miles died from HMC in 2015. Although Sir David did not die of HCM, his post mortem found the disease was present, however Miles and his brothers, Wilf and George were not tested for it at the time.

Karen added: “The Frost family are an inspiration and what they and the BHF are doing is amazing. We will never get over losing Jamie and just wish the screening had been available for him.”

Another football starlet David Paul, who played for Hibs U’20s side was found dead in his room just four days before Christmas in 2013.

The talented 18-year-old had ischaemic heart disease – characterised by a reduced blood supply to the heart. His death certificate also listed coronary artery athero-sclerosis, which narrows the arteries.

David’s sister Jennifer passed away in similar circumstances in 2008, aged 16.