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Sudden Death: My Sister's Silent Killer: 'I Lost My Sister To Sudden Adult Death Syndrome Aged 19. We're Still Searching For Answers'

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Sudden Death: My Sister's Silent Killer: 'I Lost My Sister To Sudden Adult Death Syndrome Aged 19. We're Still Searching For Answers'

It was a Sunday morning in October 2019 when Patrick Mead found out his older sister Lauren, had died of Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (also known as Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, or SADS).

Patrick, aged 17 at the time, had been due in work that morning. But as he sat down to eat his breakfast with his family, they realised Lauren hadn't come downstairs.

Assuming she'd slept in, their mother went to check on Lauren. What she found would send shockwaves through the family; Lauren had passed away in her sleep at the age of 19.

Lauren passed away in her sleep at the age of 19 (Credit: BBC)
Lauren passed away in her sleep at the age of 19 (Credit: BBC)
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SADS is the cause of death given when a person passes away suddenly, following an unexplained cardiac arrest. It is often caused by an inherited heart condition and is believed to be the cause of death in over 600 young adults in the UK every year.

After road traffic accidents and suicide, some experts believe it is the third biggest killer of young people.

Following Lauren's tragic death, and struggling to understand how his sister could have passed away so suddenly at such a young age, Patrick, from Somerset, teamed up with the BBC to make a documentary, Sudden Death: My Sister's Silent Killer which airs on BBC One on Wednesday 14th April.

After learning more about the devastating condition, Patrick is determined to raise awareness in a bid to stop other families from suffering the same shattering loss.

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While screening for SADS exists - and is offered to athletes such as footballers and other sports players - it is not routinely offered to all young people.

The UK National Screening Committee does not currently recommend systemic population screening. However, in Italy, screening of competitive athletes has been mandatory since 1982. Since this change, the incidence of young sudden cardiac death reduced by 89 per cent.

Speaking to Tyla, Patrick said: "I had never heard of SADS before Lauren passed away, and a lot of people I know hadn't heard of it either. For most people - unless it happens to someone you know - it's not something you would be aware of.

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"The only way to tackle the problem is preventing it through screening and awareness. With more awareness, more screening would be implemented because more people would want it.

Patrick and his family are still searching for answers (Credit: BBC)
Patrick and his family are still searching for answers (Credit: BBC)

"I personally think screening should be in place for everybody. In schools they offer jabs for various different things, so why can't they do screenings for people as well?

"When Lauren first passed away, we didn't really know what had happened, so we were able to use the documentary as a learning experience, helping us find out a bit more about what had happened to her and process it."

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The documentary sees Patrick and his family search for answers, even undergoing a series of genetic tests themselves to try and understand what had happened to Lauren.

When a person dies from SADS, immediate family members are invited for testing, as it is often caused by an inherited heart condition.

Patrick also meets other young people, who have lost a loved one to SADS, as well as leading cardiac-pathologist Professor Mary Sheppard, who believes SADS deaths are under-reported.

Patrick says the only way to prevent SADS is through screening and awareness (Credit: BBC)
Patrick says the only way to prevent SADS is through screening and awareness (Credit: BBC)
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While Patrick's family are still searching for answers in relation to Lauren's death, they have been told the only way they will be able to get definitive answers is through genetic testing.

"Lauren was just a great person, my best friend as well as my sister. She was bubbly, easy to be around, and my favourite memories of her are when we were a little older at college together.

"We've been told the only way we will get answers is through genetic testing. They've done all the testing they can at the moment, and we've had tests and nothing came up on those.

"I hope she would [be proud] of us for making the documentary. It's helped us as a family."

Sudden Death: My Sister's Silent Killer airs on Wednesday 14th April on BBC Three and iPlayer and at 10.45pm on BBC One.

You can find advice, support and information on SADS on the SADS UK website.

Featured Image Credit: BBC

Topics: BBC, TV News, Health

Lucy Devine
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