TODAY the Argus teams up with the family of an Oakdale teenager who died after suspected heart failure to campaign to install defibrillators in every secondary school across Gwent.
Jack Thomas’ parents have been campaigning to raise awareness of underlying heart conditions following the sudden death of their beloved15-year-old son in February 2012.
Jack, who represented Wales in taekwondo and had no previous health issues, was watching a rugby match at his girlfriend’s house in Newbridge when he suddenly began feeling unwell.
An inquest at Gwent Coroner’s Court, sitting in Newport last year, ruled that the teenager died of natural causes but the specific cause of death could not be identified, leaving his mother, June, and her husband, Grant, 44, of Waun Goch Road, in Oakdale, still searching for answers.
A charity has since been set up in Jack’s memory, called CRY in the Valleys: Jack Thomas Memorial Fund held with Cardiac Risk in the Young, and has already raised £23,000 towards getting heart screenings in schools.
In October last year the family presented Jack’s school, Oakdale Comprehensive, with a defibrillator.
But now the Argus is joining the family to help secure money in a separate fund to ensure defibrillators are available to all schools in the area. Each defibrillator would cost about £1,000 to install.
A defibrillator is a portable device which works by delivering an electric shock to a casualty in a cardiac arrest to return the heart to a normal rhythm.
Mrs Thomas, 46, said: “In my opinion they should be absolutely everywhere, so I would be so thankful if people could give as much as they can towards this.”
She added: “At least if, God forbid, something was to happen to a child, you’ve got a heart defibrillator there.”
She added: “Jack was six-foot three and a healthy boy. He had never been ill in his life."
She said the worst thing about it all is not knowing what exactly caused Jack’s death.
She said: “It’s a matter of learning to live with it and getting through each day."
Speaking about her other son, 14-year-old Owain, she said: “Owain has been doing well considering he has lost his brother and his best friend. He’s doing well in school and has joined Only Boys Aloud.”
Jack started taekwondo lessons in Oakdale aged seven and progressed well before earning his black belt at the age of 11. He was given his second ‘dan’, a higher accolade than a black belt, aged 14, and had represented Taekwondo Wales – which has since dedicated an award in his memory.
Mrs Thomas still attends all the taekwondo competitions to support the contestants, and presented the Jack Thomas Award to the winner of a recent competition.
Jack was also an A* student and had passed an exam to earn a sought-after scholarship at Cardiff Sixth Form College.
The teenager died three days after being told of his latest achievement.
* To donate, send cheques payable to Welsh Hearts, to Temple Court, 13a Cathedral Road, Cardiff, CF11 9HA. Put reference ‘Jack Thomas defibs appeal’ on the back of the envelope.