As part of my job in CRY I visit a lot of schools, universities, workplaces and community centres to educate people on Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS) and the work that our charity CRY does. I find on my visits that a lot of people are not quite sure what is involved when someone dies from SADS. So I thought this would be a good topic to talk about and I promise to keep this as simple as possible. I am not a medical professional either so I will have to keep it as simple as possible!
The best way to describe what happens to the heart when someone dies from SADS is to compare it to when you switch off a light – the heart literally stops. It’s not like a heart attack, which can be more gradual. It is for this reason that the person has very little time to be resuscitated by a defibrillator. I suppose another comparison would be to a car battery. You need that jolt from the defibrillator to get the heart going again. Unfortunately a defibrillator does not always work and mouth to mouth resuscitation does not work in this case. Even so, it is so important for defibrillators to be available in as many public places as is possible to give an individual the best chance of survival.
A lot of young people who die from this seem to be normal active people. But there are symptoms that you can look out for- chest pains, palpitations (please note these are very common and can be caused for a variety of reasons), fainting and seizures during exercise and shortness of breath during exercise. But the biggest thing to look out for is a family history of someone dying suddenly at a young age and for someone within your family living with a heart condition. There is a lot more detail on this on our website http://www.cry.ie/index.php/need-help/information.
Many people associate SADS with sports and it is a misconception that sport can cause this condition. People who die from SADS already have a heart condition which, in the majority of cases, they do not know about. Sport generally increases the work that the heart has to do, so can increase the incidents of sudden death during a period of intense activity.
If you feel you need to be screened because there is a family history or you suffer from any of the symptoms above, contact your GP and if they feel it is necessary they can refer you on to the CRYP Screening Centre. Please note the majority of families that the centre sees have a family history of SADS. For further information check out our website at http://www.cry.ie/index.php/need-help/information. I hope this has been helpful in giving you a better understanding of what SADS is.