Sudden adult death syndrome struck down personal training student Adam Middleton three years ago. The 23-year-old had suffered from an undetected heart defect and his devastated mother, Donna Mayall, was so determined to prevent the same thing from happening to other young people that she raised more than £12,000 to fund screening tests at Warwickshire College, writes Paul Offord.
Donna Mayall’s life changed forever the day her apparently healthy son, Adam Middleton, died unexpectedly.
The 23-year-old, a level three personal training student at Warwickshire College, stayed in bed on the morning of February 3, 2011. He felt unwell.
His heart stopped around lunchtime, a victim of sudden adult death syndrome (Sads), and he was later found dead by his mother.
She resolved to honour the memory of her son by helping prevent other young people from falling victim to Sads — which claims the lives of 12 people aged between 14 and 35 in the UK every week.
Donna raised £12,000 to fund a two-day screening event at Warwickshire College, where around 200 students and other teenagers and young adults were tested for heart abnormalities.
She said: “There was nothing to indicate Adam had a heart condition. He looked after himself physically and was training to be a fitness instructor at the college.
“His heart just stopped and there was nothing I could have done, even if I had been there when he died.
“But I subsequently learned Sads can largely be prevented through testing for heart abnormalities that can then be treated.
“They have introduced tests for young people in Italy and the death rate has fallen by 90 per cent. I decided to organise our own local screening event because of this.”
She added: “Adam was someone who was quite conscious of fitness. If he would have known he had a weakness, he would have definitely done something about it.”
Sads is an umbrella term commonly used for the many different causes of cardiac arrest in young people.
The screening event at the college, which was held with support from the charity the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young UK (CRY), involved a simple ECG (electrocardiogram) test. Four of the young people tested have since been referred for further tests.
“We could have saved four people’s lives, so in my book that is worth every penny of the money we raised,” said Donna.
“Even if we put 200 minds at rest that would have meant everything to me. Adam would have been very proud his family is doing something positive to help other people.”
Clare Everest, manager of the college’s academy for sport, fitness and public services, said: “We are so pleased Donna asked us to host this screening event in memory of Adam. Our students and staff worked so hard to raise money to help fund the event and to have tested 200 young people and raise awareness has been fantastic.“
The first £1,200 towards the £12,000 cost of the screening event came from donations made by Adam’s family and friends at his funeral.
Students and staff also raised £900 through a Christmas fair held at the college in November.
Donna raised the rest with help from Adam’s brother, Ash Brittain, aged 20, and sister Rhianna Brittain, 14, through events including a golf day, charity auction and fun run.
Donna recently started a new job with the British Heart Foundation, as resource administration manager for the customer service centre in Birmingham.
She said: “I moved from my old job with the Air Ambulance Service because I wanted help raise money to fight heart disease. It was another way I thought I could make a difference as a tribute to Adam. Losing him has moulded my life really. I went through some pretty bad times, but if I can help other people avoid going through the same thing, then that is what I want to do.”
Cap: Tony Hill, from Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), student Dan Taylor, 17, Lynda Jones, from CRY, and Donna Mayall at the screening event. Inset: Adam Middleton with younger brother Ash Brittain