Mountain trek in aid of cardio checks for kids Father and son want heart checks for teen footballers and athletes
Dollis Hill father and son Kevin and Oisin Bradley, 16, celebrated New Year’s Day a bit differently last month – at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
It was the climax of an epic six-day charity walk, to the 19,000-foot high summit of Africa’s tallest mountain.
In August 2010 in Kevin’s home town Rostrevor, County Down, during an Under-16 Gaelic football match between Rostrevor and Warrenpoint, one of the players, Patrick Dinsmore, collapsed on the pitch and died.
This was despite the presence of a doctor being on the touchline, and the use of the club defibrillator.
A post mortem examination showed Patrick had an undiagnosed heart ailment. When the Bradley family returned home to London they looked a little deeper into sudden cardia deaths and discovered the small charity Cardiac Risk In The Young. (C-RY. org.uk).
When C-R-Y started to offer cardiac screening in 2014, Oisin was one of the first wave of people screened at St George’s Hospital, Tooting followed by 15 of his Tara GFC and Harrow RFC team-mates.
Oisin and Kevin had previously enjoyed walking the Mourne Mountains, Ben Nevis and Mount Snowdon so when they saw an advert for the Kilimanjaro Action Challenge, they jumped at the opportunity to raise funds for C R Y.
On 26 December, St. Stephen’s Day, Oisin and Kevin flew to Tanzania with the group Action Challenge, after completing the vaccines and taking their malaria tablets and on Monday 28 December started walking eight hours a day, at first in the 30 degree heat of the jungle, then across alpine and desert land, until they reached the snow capped peak.
On day three altitude sickness started to hit in with everyone in the group feeling sick or vomiting. Oisin said he had a “banging headache” all day.
After taking medication and acclimatising, most managed to continue. On day four they walked nine hours, had dinner and a nap and started walking again at midnight.
They walked in the freezing cold (-10 degrees) dark of night with head torches, until they arrived at the snowy summit, on New Year’s Day morning.
Oxygen levels at the summit are effectively only half of normal levels and after half an hour’s rest at the top, they made the five hour descent. On day six, Saturday 2 January, they trekked along muddy tracks for six hours in heavy rain to meet their bus to their hotel. Of the original 23 in the group only 15 reached the summit.
The group had the support of 80 local staff on the excursion, including chefs, porters and guides who carried the travellers’ kit so the climbers had only to carry their daily three litres of water. The support staff set up the tents, collected water from streams and boiled it, and cooked hot meals for the climbers.
Oisin said: “They didn’t seem to get breathless, even though they were carrying our 15 kg kit and racing ahead to set up the next night’s camp. They were very good to us. Kevin added: “They even helped my son to put on his second pair of gloves when he was struggling with cold and exhaustion.
‘Hakuna Matata’ they would say, which is Swahili for no worries’.
“One of the best things was the stars , they were so big and bright. Oisín was amazed by the large size of the white-necked ravens (about 2 ft tall) who scavenged around the camps. We could also hear the monkeys hooting in the night whilst camping on the lower slopes.”
The challenge was nearly cancelled after Oisín dislocated his shoulder, three times in the six months prior to the charity climb. This meant his training was severely curtailed.
He is due to have surgery on his shoulder now. But Oisin insisted on going knowing if his arm dislocated, he would be unable to complete the challenge.
They have thus far raised £3,000 on their virginmoneygiving webpage and a further £1,100 was raised at a collection at their local Parish St Mary’s & St Andrew’s Catholic Church, Dollis Hill, thanks to the support of Fr Michael O’Doherty.
Oisín has spoken at a London Youth Board GAA meeting to raise awareness of cardiac screening at clubs, and hopes it will help organise a screening.
“I don’t want to see another player drop dead on the pitch, from a treatable condition. If we screen our players, we won’t need the defibrillator, because the players with issues won’t be playing, but getting treatment, said Oisin.
1.) GAA screening questionnaire http://www.gaa.ie/medical-and-playerwelfare/cardiac-screening/
2.) Cardiac Risk in the Young website (www.c-ry.org.uk)