The sudden death of an Ilkeston man has left his family devastated — but their grief is being eased by knowing that his heart could help to save others.
For the Shaw family, “there are no words” that can describe the 13 months since their son, Richard Shaw, died with no explanation for his ‘sudden adult death’.
But they are comforted knowing that his heart is in The Royal Brompton Hospital, London, helping with research into the condition which kills 12 people a week.
His mother, Molly, and sister, Wendy Akers, are also doing their bit for research by taking part in a sponsored walk in London on Sunday in aid of CRY – Cardiac Risk in Young People.
Printer Richard was 47 when he collapsed while chatting with his mum. He died without regaining consciousness five days later in hospital.
An inquest decided that Richard, who was married with two young children, had suffered sudden adult death.
The coroner ordered that his heart should be sent for tests to the specialist centre at the Royal Brompton.
Richard’s father, Vic, speaking at the family home in Ilkeston, said: “We are glad that the coroner suggested this action because we would have been in no good emotional position to give the go-ahead or otherwise.
“We are glad now that his death might not have been in vain but with people dying every week in a similar way, then it is important to find out why.”
Richard, who was said to be a “fit young man”, had initially collapsed about a month earlier without any explanation.
Mr Shaw said: “Richard had just started a new job about three weeks earlier and had been working night shifts. He was drinking a cup of tea in the kitchen when, without warning, he collapsed.
“An ambulance was called and he was taken to the Royal Derby Hospital where he spent the night.”
Richard was kept in hospital and tests were carried out to discover what was wrong with him without success.
He was eventually allowed out of hospital after three weeks, prescribed beta blockers and told to carry on as normal as there did not seem to be anything obvious wrong with him.
Mr Shaw, 67, said: “He felt there was something wrong with him and he spent about a fortnight feeling very afraid of being left on his own. He wanted someone to be with him at all times, probably because he was afraid of collapsing again.”
On May 24, 2013 he was talking to his mum when he collapsed again. The ambulance crew worked on him but could not bring him round and he was taken to hospital.
Fighting back tears, Mrs Shaw, 70, said: “At one point, it seemed that he could be coming round but he never did.
“I think he died really when he collapsed five days earlier because we were never able to speak to him. And when we were told that no-one knows why he died, it just made everything so much worse.
“There are no words to describe how we felt then and how we still feel now.
“We lost a son, Wendy lost a brother and his wife lost a husband and father. And his many acquaintances lost a really good friend.
“We do not want people to go through what we have done. The more research that can be done, the better and maybe one day, it will be realised why some people are more prone to this happening than others.”
For Wendy, 45, who spoke to her brother in person or on the phone every day, his loss has been very difficult.
She said: “As he was the older sibling, there was never a time he wasn’t around. His death has meant we have all also been tested, in case Richard’s condition is genetic.
“As a result, doctors have identified a possible palpitation problem with my eldest son, who is currently teaching in Hong Kong.
“So when he returns home, the doctors want to fit him with a small monitor that registers changes in heart rate. I really want him to come back soon because I will feel better knowing he is being monitored.
“But no-one can say this is anything that is linked to Richard’s death although at least any potential problem is being picked up.”
Mrs Shaw and Wendy are looking forward to taking part in the Heart of London Bridges Walk, which covers about five miles, crossing the capital’s routes over the Thames. Mr Shaw will back them up with a steady water supply and moral support. Anyone who wishes to donate to Richard’s fund can do so at virginmoneygiving.com/richardshaw65