Claire Gately: Heart failure can affect even young healthy people

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Back in 2009 I lost my brother-in-law Stephen Gately to an undiagnosed heart condition. Stephen was only 33. He had passed away while on holiday.

The family were absolutely devastated and it left us asking questions such as: “How does this happen to a healthy, fit, young man?”

Stephen wasn’t ill, never showed any signs of heart problems.

It wasn’t until we researched SADS (Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome) that we realised that 12 healthy young people a week under the age of 35 are estimated to die from undiagnosed heart conditions in the UK alone.

The family all had to go through testing were it was found that Stephen’s sister Michelle has the same condition and is on medication with regular screening.

At this point it was decided that the family would set up the newly launched Gately family charity, the Stephen Gately Trust. The charity was founded by Michelle and I am delighted to be UK Fundraising Executive. Our main aim is to raise awareness of SADS and our most recent campaign, to get defibrillators into schools, has already started with the simultaneous presentation of defibrillators into a school in Midlothian and a school in Dublin.

A defibrillator (AED) is a small portable device that checks the heart rhythm. It can deliver a therapeutic dose of electrical energy to the heart to help restore natural rhythm.

If someone has a cardiac arrest their chance of survival exceeds 80 per cent with defibrillation and Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). For every minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation their chance decreases between seven to 10 per cent a minute.

I personally have used a trainee defibrillator on a mannequin and found it very easy to use. The machine has on-demand CPR coaching that guides you through resuscitation.

There is already some public access defibrillators available but it should be made compulsory in every public building.

Recently in Ireland there has been a Public Health (Availablity of Defibrillators) Bill 2013 passed by parliament. It would be fantastic to see a similar bill introduced in the UK and make defibrillators as compulsory as fire extinguishers in public places.

If you want to help with our campaign, register as a fundraiser or for more information please visit

• Author Claire Gately helps run the Stephen Gately Trust.