Belfast Telegraph

Ulster Rugby star helping highlight sudden adult death syndrome and need for testing

Ulster Rugby star Michael Lowry with Kevin’s father Tommy and best friend Jonathan Ireland
Ulster Rugby star Michael Lowry with Kevin’s father Tommy and best friend Jonathan Ireland
Kevin Fegan
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

The family of a Co Armagh man have said they still do not have answers over how he died nine years ago.

Kevin Fegan was just 24 with his whole life ahead of him when he died from sudden adult death syndrome (SADS).

The Camlough man had finished his first year teaching technology at Southern Regional College and only returned home from America after winning a scholarship to attend the Milwaukee Festival as a sound engineer.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Kevin's father Tommy explained that on the night of his son's death he had just finished his tea and said "I don't feel well" before collapsing.

He died instantly.

Mr Fegan was speaking as Ulster Rugby star Michael Lowry and Kevin's best friend Jonathan Ireland became the latest volunteers to join CRY in its efforts to highlight SADS.

Mr Fegan is now the chairman of CRY Ireland, a charity which raises awareness of the condition known as SADS, or sudden cardiac death.

Mr Fegan recalled: "The ambulance was there within minutes. One of the men in the ambulance knew Kevin as he was a neighbour.

"He did everything he could and everyone in Daisy Hill Hospital did their best.

"The diagnosis was SADS."

SADS is diagnosed when someone dies suddenly and no obvious cause can be found, even after a post-mortem.

Since this can be caused by an inherited heart condition, the person's immediate family is often referred to a specialist genetics centre for assessment.

CRY Ireland provides this screening free of charge at its centre for Cardiac Risk in Young at Tallaght Hospital in Dublin.

Kevin's family, including his father, mother Anne, brother Martin, sister Grainne and his twin brother Ruari, all underwent the test.

"Tests indicated there was nothing structurally wrong with Kevin's heart and there was nothing hereditary for us to worry about, and that's your biggest worry as a parent," Mr Fegan added.

"If he didn't die of a hereditary disease, what did he die of?

"We still don't have an answer to that question."

Jonathan Ireland has been appointed as an ambassador for the charity, while rugby star Lowry will join CRY's board.

The Ulster fly-half said: "While SADS is by no means limited to the sports field, I have been particularly struck by the number of tragic cases involving young athletes, all presumed to be in prime health.

"I encourage anyone who has had a sudden death in their family to ensure they are screened and assessed."

Belfast businessman Mr Ireland will assist the charity in raising awareness of SADS.

He said: "I have seen first-hand the devastating impact the disease can have on families, friendship circles and the wider community.

"But I have also seen the incredible lifeline that CRY brings to those in the aftermath of a death through its screening and family support services.

"Thousands of individuals across Ireland avail of the charity's screening service proactively and there is no doubting that this is saving many lives each year."

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