THE loved ones of a schoolgirl who died from a symptomless heart condition joined more than 100 others as they walked to raise awareness of the syndrome.
Diane and John Ber, from Peterlee, were among those to take part in a walk along the banks of the River Wear in Durham, to support a fund which helps those affected by young sudden cardiac death.
The 7km route was set up by Cardiac Risk in the Young (Cry) and has become an annual event.
The Bers became involved with the charity after daughter Kasia died aged 17, in 2005.
She had a heart condition known as Long QT Syndrome and her family had a history of arrhythmia, which is an unusual rhythm of the heart, relating to the disorder, but the condition was never followed up through the family until Kasia’s sudden death.
Had there been greater awareness of the syndrome and other symptomless heart conditions that kill many people in the UK every week, John and Diane believe Kasia’s death could have been avoided.
John, 51, who lives in Horden with his 49-year-old wife and is dad to Chris, 21, said: “The support that the event has been given over the last couple of years is amazing.
“It is great to see that the figures are rising each time and I really hope that we can have more people than ever this time around. We have suffered but I know that every time someone mentions Cry or someone gets involved with charity events, it is making a difference.”
The family was just one of many to join in the event, set up by Jeff Morland, from West Rainton, along with his family and friends in 2010 to raise funds for the charity in memory of his son, Levon, who died aged 22.
He had Wolff-Parkinson White syndrome, which causes palpitations as the heartbeats irregularly. The charity has strong links with the North East, due tragically to the number of families who have been affected by this devastating condition.
Much of the money raised has been used to fund free cardiac screenings in young people.
Sudden cardiac death in the young claims the lives of at least 12 apparently fit and healthy people, aged 35 and under, in the UK every week.
The charity says 80 per cent of young people have no signs or symptoms and so the only way to detect a potentially sinister cardiac abnormality is by having this simple screening test.
Alison Cox, chief executive of Cry, said: “We were delighted to return to the North East for the third year running to host this special fund-raising initiative in the beautiful setting of Durham.
“I would to thank all of the local families who joined us. All of the funds will be invaluable to continue the charity’s work.”