Kentish Express Ashford & District
‘Nobody knows they have got it unless they have screening done’
Rhys Coleman, 22
Rhys Coleman was just 22 when he collapsed and died at his flat in Canterbury.
His devastated family initially presumed he had suffered a fall or an accident.
“Our worlds just crashed when Rhys died,” said his mum, Nikki Burrows. “It was absolutely awful. He had no signs of illness whatsoever, and was never ill as a child. In fact, he was probably the healthiest person I know.”
The “adventurous and friendly” former Archbishop’s pupil loved to travel, and had been “full of dreams”.
Active and exceptionally hard-working, Rhys was employed at Asda in Sturry Road, but also worked at a car wash on his days off and still did the paper round he had taken on at 13.
His prized possessions were his huge collection of Harry Potter costumes, wands, and collectables.
“He just lived and breathed Harry Potter from when he was little,” said his mum. “I think he was waiting for his letter from Hogwarts.”
When his family moved from Canterbury to Aylesham, Rhys decided to stay on in the city, and moved into a flat in London Road by himself.
But tragically, in November 2015, he was alone at his flat when he collapsed without warning and died.
“His death was so fast and broke our hearts,” said his mum.
“He was so young and so full of dreams. He was such a lovely lad, happy-go-lucky and full of life, and I think we were lucky to have him for 22 years.”
Rhys’ family learned he died from sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS); an electrical fault in his heart had developed in the womb and could have killed him at any time.
They have since received support from Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), and have undergone testing to make sure no inherited heart conditions run in the family.
Nikki now hopes to help raise awareness of underlying heart conditions, and to encourage people to take advantage of heart screenings that are run by CRY.
“It’s so important,” she said. “A lot of people only go and get it done once they’ve lost somebody, because they don’t know about it beforehand.
“Rhys had never had any heart problems, so he’d never had any tests done.
“But more people should know about it, because this can happen to anybody.
“It’s silent, it’s there, and nobody knows they’ve got it unless they have the screening done.
“If Rhys had had it done, there might have been a different outcome.”