The devastated family of a 21-year-old who died after collapsing during a football match has backed a campaign which could help save young lives.
Stephen Carey, from Alnmouth, was representing the village side in a game in July when the tragic incident happened.
Desperate attempts were made to resuscitate him at the match before paramedics arrived, but neither they nor doctors at Wansbeck Hospital could save him.
Stephen had been born with a heart problem, but no one ever suspected it and he might never have suffered any symptoms, his inquest heard last Thursday – the day before his 22nd birthday.
Afterwards, his mother, Joy Bowman, 43, and his stepfather Chris Bowman, 37, paid tribute to ‘popular’ Stephen.
They also spoke of their determination to support charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), which is petitioning the Government to change its policy on cardiac screening for young people. The policy currently states that screening should not be offered, although evidence suggests it can be vital.
Joy said: “This is about trying to save the lives of future generations. Screening would be a real help and it could have possibly saved Stephen’s life.
“People from the community have already signed up to the petition, and the support has been fantastic, but we are trying to get as many people as possible to sign up.”
Stephen’s inquest heard that his right coronary artery was in the wrong place. It emerged from the same opening as the left artery, which meant it competed for space with other major blood vessels and so could not carry enough blood to the right side of the heart.
Pathologist Dr Peter Birch said this had caused scarring, which had probably gone on since Stephen was very young.
Eventually, during exertion such as in a football match, the heartbeat would falter and cause a sudden collapse. Dr Birch said: “The paramedics/ doctors will have worked hard to revive Stephen, but sometimes nothing can be done.”
Asked if Stephen could have been treated if the condition had been discovered, Dr Birch said he couldn’t say either way.
Coroner Tony Brown recorded a verdict of natural causes.
Joy said: “It gives us an answer and a reason why Stephen was taken so young. The family misses him so much and always will. We wish him a happy 22nd birthday.”
Stephen, who worked at Iceland, in Alnwick, also leaves behind brothers Daniel, 24, and James, 10, sister Mairi, 17, father Daniel Carey, and girlfriend Nikki Kim.
CRY needs 100,000 signatures by March 28. Visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31819