Northern Ireland

British Heart Foundation NI highlights faulty gene risk

Hilary Niblock
Image caption Grieving mother Hilary Niblock said more research was needed so no family has to suffer the loss of a child so unexpectedly

One young person dies every month in Northern Ireland from an undiagnosed heart condition, according to the British Heart Foundation NI.

A faulty gene can put people at high risk of a heart attack or other non-genetic heart defects, like abnormal heart rhythms, says the charity.

It estimates that about 17,500 people in NI are living with a faulty gene.

Kris Niblock from Lisburn collapsed and died just a few days before his 21st birthday in the summer of 2014.

Inherited heart conditions: What you need to know

  • Many people with an inherited heart condition have no symptoms, but some can develop some warning signs including dizzy spells, palpitations and blackouts
  • Screening and genetic testing can help identify problems
  • Doctors will suggest you be tested if a family member has been diagnosed with an inherited heart condition, there is a family history of premature deaths or you have been diagnosed with angina or had a heart attack at a young age
  • If you are diagnosed with an inherited heart condition, monitoring and treatment can reduce the risk of a sudden heart attack or cardiac arrest
  • Speak to your GP if you are concerned

"His friend came running in and said Kris is lying at the side of the car. We thought maybe he's been electrocuted. The ambulance came and rushed him to Lagan Valley Hospital," said his mother Hilary.

"When he got there they must have worked on him for two to three hours but there was nothing more they could do. Nothing can prepare you hearing that. I just kept thinking this can't be happening."

The Niblock family were all tested for an inherited heart condition but later discovered Kris's death was due to an electrical fault in his heart.

"I know now there was nothing we could have done but you're tortured by thoughts of what if? What if we had known?" Mrs Niblock said.

"Kris was my youngest and was the wee boy I had always wanted. I always felt he was someone special.

"Everyone who knew him talks about his big smile. He was so quiet and unassuming and would have done anything for anyone.

"I don't want any family to go through what we've gone through. More research is needed so no family has to suffer the loss of their child so unexpectedly."

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