Marks & Spencer stores in Co Tyrone has revealed a new partnership with leading heart charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), an organisation who aim to prevent young sudden cardiac deaths through awareness, screening and research, as well as offering specialist support to affected families and young people.
The development comes after M&S Newtownbreda Foodhall Manager, Matthew Thompson, tragically died from a previously undiagnosed heart condition while jogging on the Lagan Towpath in June last year. Matthew was only 39 years old.
M&S Coleraine will now work with CRY on a number of initiatives, including heart screening for Matthew’s colleagues and various fundraising drives throughout the year.
Following Matthew’s death, M&S has also installed public access defibrillators in all of Northern Ireland’s 20 stores, as well as trained over 200 members of staff in their emergency use, as part of its commitment to preventing sudden cardiac death. A defibrillator is a life-saving device which delivers a high-current shock to someone who is going into cardiac arrest, to re-start the heart or return it to its normal rhythm.
Immediately after Matthew’s death a fundraising page was set up to help bring CRY’s pioneering screening service to M&S in Northern Ireland.
Ciaran O Dubhthaigh, M&S Coleraine Store Manager, said: “Matthew’s death was a shock not only to his colleagues at M&S Newtownbreda, but to the entire M&S community. He passed away due to an undiagnosed heart condition and we are taking the steps to help prevent that happening to others.
“We have established an ongoing partnership with CRY to support the services they offer, and our first joint event will be to provide heart screening for members of Matthew’s team. This will be taking place in M&S Lisburn over the next few weeks.”
Every week in the UK, around 12 young people die suddenly from a previously undiagnosed heart condition. 80% of these deaths will occur with no prior symptoms, which is why CRY believes proactive screening is so vitally important.
CRY’s screening programme now tests around 23,000 young people across the UK every year. One in every 300 of young people screened will be identified with a potentially life threatening condition.
Matthew’s partner and fellow M&S employee, Lauren McCaughtry, supported the new charity collaboration and has also personally raised over £5,600 in Matthew’s memory to install defibrillators on the Lagan Towpath where Matthew died.
Lauren said: “The support from my M&S colleagues has been invaluable during this tragic time. The thought that we have managed to achieve defibrillator coverage throughout the province is absolutely amazing. To think that we could save another life because of Matthew is such a fitting tribute to an amazing man who left a positive impact on everybody with whom he came into contact.
“I recently completed the defibrillator training offered by M&S and was surprised by how user friendly they are. There’s no doubt in my mind that we will be able to save a life with these devices, and the opportunity to make something positive come out of such a tragic situation is the perfect legacy for Matthew.”