MORE than 100 pupils, teachers and relatives of Jack Thomas had their hearts screened at Oakdale Comprehensive School on Friday (June 6) to mark his 18th birthday.
Taekwondo star Jack was 15 years old when he died suddenly at his girlfriend’s house in Newbridge in February 2012. His family are yet to find out what exactly caused his death, but believe it to be associated with a possible arrhythmia.
A few months after his death, his parents, Grant and June Thomas, set up a memorial fund in Jack’s memory through the charity CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young), which has raised a remarkable £35,000.
The Argus has also since teamed up with Mr and Mrs Thomas to launch a separate campaign, Jack’s Appeal, which aims to get heart defibrillators into every secondary school in Gwent and the Rhymney Valley.
Using £3,500 from the CRY fund, his parents arranged for a team of doctors and cardiologists from CRY to visit their son’s former school on Friday, June 6, on what would have been Jack’s 18th birthday.
Mrs Thomas said: “Today has been a very tough day for us as a family. I just don’t want people to forget him - this takes my mind off things. I feel it’s important for people to have their hearts checked.”
Jack’s younger brother Owain, now 15, was the first to be checked for any heart abnormalities.
Owain, who has been checked several times the untimely death of his brother more than two years ago, said: “It’s good that we can do it on this day. We were very close, he was popular in school. There was nothing wrong with Jack as far as we know but if he could have been checked before, then we might have found something. You never know.”
CRY screened more than 12,000 people between the ages of 14 and 35 in the UK last year, and they are the only charity in the UK to offer such a service.
Tony Hill, family screening manager for CRY, said: “We check their weight and their height, then they have the ECG (electrocardiogram) scan. Depending on their family history or symptoms the doctors will decide whether they need the echo (echocardiogram) scan. If they find an abnormality, the person will get fast-tracked through.
“To be honest, ever since the Fabrice Muamaba incident [Premier League footballer who collapsed on the pitch in March 2012], it has all become newsworthy and it’s great for us to help raise awareness. We’ve got to alert these people but not alarm them.”
Further screenings will be held in Oakdale in February next year, and at the school on June 6, 2015.