The family of tragic Boyzone singer Stephen Gately has backed the Evening News’ campaign to get every Lothians sports club and leisure centre to have a defibrillator on the premises.
Pop star Stephen died suddenly in his sleep in 2009 at the age of 33 from a hidden genetic heart condition, leaving family, friends, and legions of fans all over the world shocked and devastated. And now his family want to back the Shockingly Easy campaign set up after the Evening News joined Jamie Skinner’s family to find ways to prevent similar tragedies to the one which saw the 13-year-old Liberton High pupil collapse and die while playing football in Edinburgh last December.
Stephen’s brother Anthony and sister-in-law Claire, who live in Dalkeith, want to raise awareness of the “silent killers” such as the condition that claimed Stephen, to encourage people learn life-saving CPR skills and how to use a defibrillator.
“I want no other family to go through what ours has,” said Anthony, Stephen’s younger brother by four years. “I can’t put into words how I feel about the loss of Stephen. It’s something that is with me every day that I can’t let go, but have to live with. He never knew he had a heart condition. He was only 33 and had so much more to give.”
Heart conditions are difficult to detect in an autopsy, but since Stephen’s death, his sister Michelle has been diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome, a potentially fatal disease if undiagnosed.
Now all of Stephen’s siblings, including Anthony, are waiting to undergo genetic testing to determine if they also carry the illness.
Claire said: “Stephen was fit, he was healthy. We got the phone call to tell us what had happened, and obviously the family were completely shocked. We just didn’t expect somebody at 33 years old to die in their sleep of a heart condition.”
“As a wife and a parent, it’s total anxiety. It’s so stressful. All my children have been to the Sick Kids’ to have ECGs done, and my eldest son, who is 11, is borderline for having this condition – we won’t know until we have the genetic test result.
“Every time he’s out doing any kind of sport, my nerves are at me, because Long QT Syndrome is one of the conditions where children can collapse, or then can pass away in their sleep.”
Claire organised a fundraising drive that resulted in Dalkeith School Community Campus, her son’s school, buying its own defibrillator.
She added: “[These conditions] are silent killers. That’s why it’s important to have these defibrillators everywhere.
“You’re reading about it all the time: young people collapsing, gymnasts, football players, rugby players. Jamie Skinner was one of them.”
Anthony said: “It’s very important to raise awareness of undiagnosed heart conditions as around 12 fit healthy young people die every week in the UK. We need more defibrillators in public places and more people trained to use them.”