A TEST that takes a matter of minutes might have saved Yasmin Caldera’s life.
The Chichester teenager was one of tens of thousands of young people who walk around every day without ever being checked to see if they have an undiagnosed heart condition.
For Nicky Caldera, from West Broyle, this is especially hard to bear after her 18-year-old daughter passed away last July after going to bed and never waking up.
‘Very caring and very loving’ according to her mum, Yasmin attended Havant College and was about to go to Sri Lanka to volunteer at an orphanage.
However, no-one knew Yasmin had a heart defect and her family has been left distraught by their loss.
This month, a screening day at Yasmin’s old school went ahead, testing 103 of her former classmates to see if any of them had any unknown defects.
It was a tragic loss and completely out of the blue and so her family have had a terrible time since her deathJohn McDougall, Havant College principal
“I just wish more schools would do it more routinely and offer screening days to the parents to let them decide if they want their child screened,” said Nicky.
The event, run by the CRY charity (Cardiac Risk in the Young), was in jeopardy for a little while as it needed 100 people aged 14-35 to sign up.
However, after a slow uptake initially, there was a sudden spike in engagement and the event ended up being oversubscribed.
“I’m obviously delighted they had so much interest in the day,” said Nicky. “At one point they didn’t know if they would get the numbers up, but then they had enough, so obviously there’s a demand.
“If there’s enough demand then I will certainly consider organising further days in the future.”
She thanked Marion MacGregor, from the college, who arranged the day.
“Marion’s organised all of this which is really kind of her,” she said.
“I just wish that more schools would consider offering this as a regional event.
“I just can’t really reiterate how important it is and if you could have the chance to have your child screened, why wouldn’t you?”
The college’s principal, John McDougall, has a 19-year-old son called Jamie, who was tested on the day.
“I think it’s worth singing the praises of CRY,” he said.
“They’re a great organisation funded entirely voluntarily. They punch above their weight and do a superb job.”
Speaking of the loss of the college’s former student, he said: “It was a tragic loss and completely out of the blue and so her family have had a terrible time since her death.”
He called for free testing to be offered to young people to see if they were at risk of developing a cardiac problem.
About eight of the 103 people tested at Havant College were referred on after their ECG showed slight anomalies.
“It seems crazy to me that if you’ve got around eight per cent with issues that might need further investigation, not to have that available on the NHS,” said John.
The event was run on the day by Tony Hill, a CRY family screening manager.
“In all the venues we’ve done, we’ve always found someone with something and sometimes we’ve found two or three people with immediate, life-threatening conditions.”
He said medical knowledge had advanced so much now, people with conditions could manage them to lead perfectly happy lives.
“So really it’s not a case of sticking your head in the sand and not wanting to know,” he said.
“If you know, then at least something can be done.”
Tony has been with CRY since 1996.
“When we first started, we were only allowed to say that there were between two and four deaths a week and now we’re looking at 12.”
The charity had to restrict its numbers to ones that were provable to be caused by heart defects, but the number attributed to this has grown more accurate.
“We want to be conservative, but 12 is still conservative as far as we’re concerned,” he said. Since 1996, not long after the charity started, CRY has grown in fundraising, screening and research and now screens 17,500 young people every year.
After nearly 20 years, Tony still wants to see the charity continue testing more and more young people every year.
“We’re saving lives,” he said. “That’s the thing. That’s a feel-good factor about the job.”
To find out more about CRY and screening days, visit www.c-r-y.org.uk