A young mum-of-one who lost her fiancé with “absolutely no warning” this year has described the pain of her loss, and the charity work which has come about as a result.
Danielle Riley could never have imagined the grief that this new year would bring.
But following the shock of sudden bereavement after her partner Andy Key collapsed at their home on January 15, she has found help and support through a little known charity CRY, which works to raise awareness of Cardiac Risk in the Young.
Danielle lost Andy, 31, a much loved partner, dad, son and brother, to a hidden heart condition. The couple had been together 11 years and had been teenage sweethearts.
It should have been one of the happiest years of their lives. Their son Arlo was born two years ago and they were looking forward to marrying in August after their wedding, booked for last year, had to be postponed due to the pandemic.
‘Trying to figure out this new life’
Speaking to the Lancashire Evening Post, Danielle, 29, recalled how Andy, a materials test engineer at BAe, had never really been ill.
She said: “There was absolutely no warning. In the 11 years I’ve known him he had one day off sick. He was never poorly either. Even when I had coronavirus in June he didn’t catch it off me. He wasn’t an ill person. He was just a wonderful partner, kind and hard working...I couldn’t understand how he could have died. It’s still a bit surreal.”
Now she and Andy’s family and friends have pledged to do all they can to raise funds for and awareness of CRY in the hope it helps prevent others facing the heartbreak and loss which they are suffering.
She said: “I’m trying to figure out this new life. CRY has been extremely helpful for us.”
Andy had collapsed in the bath, just before taking a shower when getting ready for work.
Danielle called her father when she could not get a reply from Andy. He rushed round and broke down the bathroom door and commenced CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) until emergency services arrived. Andy was taken to the Royal Preston Hospital but could not be saved.
Follow up tests have shown his heart was structurally sound.
CRY, which arranged additional testing of his heart, helped explain the causes of Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS) and advised his family to get tested to see if any of them might have an inherited heart condition.
‘A loving, lovely son’
Danielle, a part-time hospital administrator, said she had heard of sudden death in infancy, but knew little about how young adults could be affected. She said: “CRY explained what it meant. They sent us leaflets, took calls and when we email them they get back to us.
She added: "Nothing is too much trouble - not just for me but for all Andy’s parents and siblings. I didn’t know that it could be hereditary. Again it was CRY pointed this out...It still shocks me that a healthy person’s heart can just stop beating with no warning signs.”
CRY can provide screening tests for young people aged 14-35 and in the future Danielle and family hope to fundraise to help finance such tests and further research and increase knowledge of the service.
Andy’s mother Ann-Marie Key, a retired GP secretary, said: “Andrew was just a loving, lovely son. He was our first born. We knew he had a lot of friends and was well liked but until this awful day we didn’t know (he had) quite so many.
“He was such a lovely lad with all his life in front of him and a happy family. They had all their future ahead of them, just snatched away. It’s awful...he’s just left a massive huge hole in our lives.”
Noting that up to 12 young people under 35 die each week in the UK from sudden arrhythmic death, Ann-Marie said: “We’re one of a lot of families affected by it. Hopefully that number will be reduced in the future.”
CRY says: “The emotional impact of the sudden, seemingly inexplicable death of a young person on their family cannot be underestimated. CRY offers emotional and clinical support following a young sudden cardiac death.”
Andy, a former pupil of St Cecilia's High School in Longridge, was a keen sports fan, devoted to Chipping Football Cub and a loyal follower of PNE (Preston North End) and England. He played for Longridge Cricket Club when younger.
The planned CRY fund-raisers organised by Andy’s friends, pandemic permitting, include:
* A coast to coast bike ride over two days, starting on May 22.
* A 100 hole golf day challenge at Longridge Golf Club on June 25.
* A Family Fun Day on July 4 organised by Chipping Football Club.
• For details about CRY’s work and screenings see www.c-r-y.org.uk or call 01737 363222.