School of tragic Oakdale teen, Jack Thomas, presented with heart defibrillator
7:10am Tuesday 1st October 2013 in News
From left to right: Oakdale Comprehensive head teacher Chris David, Adrian Waller of Zoll UK, June Thomas, and Grant Thomas.
THE PARENTS of an Oakdale teenager who died from a suspected heart condition last year was at their son’s former school yesterday to present a new heart defibrillator.
June, 46, and Grant Thomas, 44, hope to raise awareness of underlying heart conditions in schools in the borough following the sudden death of their 15-year-old son Jack in February last year.
The youngster, who represented Wales in taekwondo, was watching a rugby match at his girlfriend’s house in Newbridge when he suddenly began feeling unwell.
An inquest at Gwent Coroner's Court, sitting in Newport last year, ruled that the teenager died of natural causes but the specific cause of death could not be identified, leaving his parents still searching for answers.
Mr and Mrs Thomas, who also have a 14-year-old son called Owain, have since begun campaigning for more facilities to aid those who might be susceptible to heart failure.
Yesterday, they presented Oakdale Comprehensive School with a heart defibrillator from a fund she set up in Jack’s memory through the charity CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) last year, which has already raised £23,000. It was also supported through defibrillator specialists Zoll UK.
Mrs Thomas said: “This is what keeps me going. I just want to start getting defibrillators in some of the schools.
“There aren’t any at schools in Caerphilly county borough as far as I know – the only places that have them over here are the leisure centres.
“This might not have saved Jack but I don’t want anyone else to go through what we’ve been through, and what I’ve been through as a mother.
“It often affects a lot of young people and kids who are healthy as well. Jack loved his football and was really into his taekwondo.”
Last year’s inquest heard how Jack had walked three miles from home to his girlfriend Emily's house in Newbridge that day to watch Wales play Scotland in the Six Nations with her and her family.
Her father Richard Brown said that at half-time Emily took photos of Jack smiling and pulling faces but then realised something was wrong.
He said Jack was sat upright, tipped his cup of tea over his trousers and made a couple of light groans.
Mr Brown carried out cardiopulmonary resuscitation until the ambulance arrived.
He said the 15-year-old had only been at his home for around 40 minutes and had not complained of feeling unwell.
Pathologist Dr Edward Williams said a post mortem found no signs of any injury and no significant abnormalities in the heart and that the arteries were normal.
He said the most likely cause was cardiac arrhythmia which is where the heart beats out of control but leaves no trace that can be seen on a post mortem.
His mother is also determined to work with schools in the area to begin heart screening tests for schoolchildren.
Mrs Thomas added: “It will be Jack’s 18th birthday next year, June 6, so we’re getting the first heart screening test in Oakdale Comprehensive.
“It only costs £3,500 to screen a 100 people so it is definitely worth it.”
CRY has nominated Mrs Thomas for Lloyds Bank Community Fund for her work, with the money being provided for the winner going towards the Remembering Jack Thomas fund.
To vote for Ms Thomas, text VOTE CFTD to 61119 or go to lloydsbank.com/community fund for more information.
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