Sussex teenager 'shouldn't be here today' after life threatening heart disease was found by his mum

A West Sussex teenager said he is 'incredibly grateful' to be alive after life threatening heart disease, which was first spotted by his mum at her GP surgery.

Wednesday, 19th June 2019, 2:52 pm
George Ashby, 16 with his mum Amelia who works at Lavant Road Surgery. Photo: Kate Shemilt. ks190337-3

Following a football match when he was 13, George Ashby went straight to mum Amelia's GP surgery in Lavant?, Chichester, something he said he 'never normally does', and he had an impromptu heart test with his mum's new stethoscope.

Now 16 years of age, and having just told his story through a YouTube video, George said: "My dad normally collects me as mum is busy at work on a Thursday. Mum had a new stethoscope delivered that day as her old one had gone missing.

"It is chocolate and gold so as not to disappear again. Many of her patients have probably seen it. She listened to my heart and heard a massive murmur.

George Ashby, 16 with his mum Amelia who works at Lavant Road Surgery. Photo: Kate Shemilt. ks190337-3

"I was quickly diagnosed with life threatening heart disease. I had coarctation of the aorta and my aorta had narrowed to less than 4mm."

'If that day had not happened I would not be alive today'

After the diagnosis, George had urgent, life saving heart surgery and a stent was inserted.

George Ashby and his sister Imogen Ashby in front of her animation at the Oxford Brookes University art show in May.

He added: "If that day had not happened I would not be alive today.

"In the lead up to my surgery, I had loads of tests, heart monitors, CT scans, MRI scans, electrocardiograms, the list goes on. I lost absolutely loads of weight.

"The moment I was told I could die, that was the moment I realised how serious the procedure was. I felt ill every single day. I can't describe to you the pain I felt. I was dying and I shouldn't be here today."

Mum Amelia, a GP at Lavant Road Surgery, said it was a 'chance in a million' that George came straight there from football.

"It is the most scary feeling in the world that your child could die," she said.

"I tried to put on a brave face when inside I was really scared. We feel very lucky every day.

"This is usually a story in memory of someone but in George's case he is very much alive."

'George knows he shouldn't be here and now he wants to help other people'

George and Amelia are now set to cycle 66 miles around the Isle of Wight to raise vital funds for CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) to 'help save the lives' of other young people.

George, who has recently started work experience in the surgeon department at St Richard's Hospital following the completion of his GCSE exams last week, said: "I want to increase awareness because every week, 12 young people die from some undiagnosed heart disease.

"I am incredibly grateful to be here today and now I want to help other people live through their undiagnosed heart condition."

Amelia said the cycle ride will be 'worth every mile of pain'.

She said: "We are cycling round the Isle of Wight on Friday (June 21).

"We are trying to raise money to give to CRY and promote screening in the UK. It will be 66 miles, it is very hilly and will just take however long it takes us to do it.

"It is the first time for both of us. We cycle casually but we are not professional. It's a big thing for us.

"George had the luck of the gods. George knows he shouldn't be here and now he wants to help other people.

"He started setting this all up during his GCSEs and is doing all the promoting. I am very proud of him."

George and Amelia have so far raised £2,253 — 90 per cent of their £2,500 target. Click here to donate on their Virgin Money Giving page.

Amelia continued: "We are very grateful for the donations and everyone's support. Twelve fit and healthy young people die each week in the UK from undiagnosed heart disease [and] screening has been shown to reduce the death rate by 80 per cent. That’s nine young lives a week."

George's story inspires his sister's animation

George's story also provided the inspiration behind a project his sister Imogen produced at Oxford Brookes University — an animation helping children to be less scared when going through cardiology, which will be used on the CRY website. Click here to watch the animation.

Imogen said: "I made an animation as my final major project for my art and design foundation course at Oxford Brookes. It consists of 1,038 drawings all combined into a video lasting one minute and 26 seconds. In this short time I want to calm the children that visit a cardiac outpatients ward.

"This project is based on my own experience in hospitals, especially inspired by my brother, who was diagnosed with a heart condition two years ago. I want the project to raise awareness of the importance of early diagnosis and the importance of getting screened and tested.

"My brother’s disease was found by chance but not every child is that lucky. I don’t want cardiac diseases to be a mystery any longer.

"Some people have no symptoms whatsoever. Don’t let your child be one of them."