Hadleigh: Family of Rebecca Phillips back Co-op’s heart campaign

The Co Op in Hadleigh has just had a new defib fitted outside it's store.; Julie Phillips lost her d

The Co Op in Hadleigh has just had a new defib fitted outside it's store.; Julie Phillips lost her daughter suddenly to heart failure and is now helping to give out leaflets for the charity CRY.; L-R Julie Phillips, Laura Fellingham (co op), Lee Phillips - Credit: Archant

A young nursery nurse who died from an undiagnosed heart defect has been remembered at the launch of potentially life-saving equipment in the town where she lived.

Rebecca Phillips, from Hadleigh, collapsed at a party in November 2010, aged just 26. But it was only after her death that doctors discovered she had arrhythogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) – one of many heart conditions that cause unexpected death in the young.

Her mother Julie Phillips, 53, was determined to do something to help prevent another family from going through the same traumatic ordeal. During the months after she died, Rebecca’s family, including her dad, Peter, 54, and her brothers Lee, 32, and Nicky, 31, all gained help and support from the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY). The organisation arranged for them all to be screened to see if they shared the same potentially fatal heart condition.

During the past year, the family has raised thousands of pounds for the charity, recently hitting a fundraising target of £8,500, which will be used to pay for a screening day for 100 young people in Hadleigh next spring.

Rebecca’s story was one of several that inspired the East of England Co-operative Society to launch its “Every Minute Counts” campaign, which will see 100 defibrillators added to harder-to-reach locations across Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex.

Yesterday, Rebecca’s home town of Hadleigh became the 46th to receive the vital equipment at its High Street Co-op store. Mrs Phillips and her sons were at the launch to hand out leaflets and help raise awareness of heart conditions in the young, and the importance of screening.

Lee Phillips said: “If my sister had been screened, they would have found that the lower ventricle in her heart wasn’t performing as it should. Then she would have been able to have an operation to have a pacemaker fitted and she probably would have still been with us today.”

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His mother praised the Co-op for funding the defibrillator programme. She added: “We had no idea how many young people die from undiagnosed heart defects every year.

“Defibrillators can help save lives and if we can prevent just one family from going through the trauma we have endured, then all of the campaigning and fundraising will have been worthwhile.”