TRIBUTES have today been paid to a popular rugby player and loving son who was found dead at home aged just 27.
Jamie Maclennan had been diagnosed with epilepsy more than a decade ago, but never let his condition get in the way of enjoying his life.
In recent months however, he suffered a series of seizures, causing concern among his family and girlfriend Emily Ferries, 24.
Mum Karen, who is fund-raiser from Sunderland children’s respite care centre Grace House, discovered Jamie’s body in his bed on the morning of December 11.
He is believed to have suffered a seizure.
Speaking from her home, in Thornholme Road, Sunderland, Karen, 53, said: “I’ve worked for 10 years raising money for children with life-threatening illnesses without realising that my son was one of them.
“One of the worst things is not knowing if we could’ve done anything to save him from dying.”
Sporty Jamie, who went to Barnes Infant and Junior Schools, got into rugby after starting at Thornhill School near his home.
During his time at the school he also represented his county in the long jump, relay and 100-metre sprint events.
He was eventually asked to play for Sunderland Rugby Club (RFC) at aged 12 and made scores of friends, many of who carried his coffin at his funeral at St Mary and St Peter’s Church, in Springwell Road.
It was as he left school to go to Houghall Rugby Academy, at East Durham College, in Peterlee, that he was diagnosed with epilepsy.
“We took him to the doctors and told to keep an eye on it, but we were never told it could be life-threatening,” added Karen, who is married to Jamie’s dad Alex, 56.
“The only information we were given was for Jamie not to have a bath or a shower alone or to ride his bike on a road in case something happened.
“I think nobody thought he needed help because he looked like a fine, handsome lad and we only found out earlier this year that he was entitled to a free bus pass because of his condition.”
Despite carrying on with life as normal, Jamie would often suffer from myoclonic jerks, causing him to fall and sometimes injure himself by banging his head.
Before he died these types of incidents were happening less than once a fortnight.
Emily, who met Jamie when they both worked at EDF Energy, in Doxford Park, said: “With everything Jamie had to cope with he still had this amazing ability to enjoy each day as normal.
“He made me laugh every day that we were together.
“He just wanted to live his life and have fun and that’s the way he always was.”
Jamie’s family are now waiting for the results of a post-mortem examination to find out what caused his death.
“We’ve been told that seizures don’t show up on a post-mortem examination, so we might not get a definite cause as to how he died,” said Karen.
“We’d like to know if there was anything we could’ve done to save him, but if it turns out that there was something, then that will make things even worse for us.”
Hundreds of Jamie’s devastated pals turned out for his funeral.
“People had travelled from all over, places like Jordan, Bangkok and Saudi Arabia to be there,” said Karen.
“I’ve never met a group of friends who showed so much love for their friend as they have done with Jamie. It’s amazing.
“He never had a bad word to say about anyone and I don’t think he ever did.”