Page last updated at 13:54 GMT, Monday, 28 September 2009 14:54 UK

Sister's plinth focus on hearts

Gareth Thomas
Gareth Thomas was an active, fit 21-year-old when he died

A woman who lost her 21-year-old brother to a heart condition has taken an awareness message to the fourth plinth in London's Trafalgar Square.

Gareth Thomas had not long graduated from Aberystwyth University when he died in his sleep in 2007.

He was a victim of Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome (Sads).

Sian Thomas, 26, took part on Monday morning in the One & Other event, which sees the empty plinth occupied for 100 days.

Since the death of Gareth, his sister Sian has dedicated time to raising funds for the charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young (Cry).

An estimated 12 young people aged 35 and under die every week from Sads, according to the charity.

Before her plinth appearance, Ms Thomas, from Llantrisant, Rhondda Cynon Taf, pledged to use her hour to reinforce the sobering statistic about the number of young lives being lost to the undiagnosed condition.

Sian Thomas
Many of these tragic deaths could be prevented if young people or their parents were aware that a simple test could identify 'a ticking timebomb'
Sian Thomas

"The concept of the fourth plinth has become truly iconic and I feel privileged to have been offered a place later this month and to have been given an opportunity to pay tribute to my brother in such a public way," she said.

"There was really no doubt in my mind as to what I would 'do' during my hour and I hope passersby will take the time to stop and think about my message."

Her brother had been considered to be a fit, active and healthy young man when he was found collapsed in a house in Cardiff that he had moved into with friends from college.

It was later confirmed that the politics and international law graduate almost certainly had been struck by the cardiac condition Sads.


"Screening is available through Cry and many of these tragic deaths could be prevented if young people or their parents were aware that a simple test could identify 'a ticking timebomb' before it is too late," said Ms Thomas.

The charity, Cry, said it welcomed the bid to raise awareness about the cardiac condition. Set up in 1995, the group has been campaigning to cut the number of deaths and will be rolling out a screening "tour" of Wales in 2010, targeting young people aged between 14 and 35.

Its founder Alison Cox added: "We were very proud when Sian told us of her plans to stand on the fourth plinth as part of her ongoing awareness activity for Cardiac Risk in the Young.

"Whilst Sian will be holding a banner displaying the fact that the current statistics reflect that 12 young people die every week of sudden cardiac death in the UK, it is sobering to remember that experts believe the figure could be just the tip of the iceberg.

"We must do everything we can to continue to raise awareness of the importance of cardiac testing in young people, especially those involved in physical activity."

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