By Paul Kelly
RUGBY ace Shane Horgan yesterday stepped up for a challenge of different kind — raising €1.3 million for research into Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS).
International winger Horgan, fresh from his man-of-the-match award for his heroics against Wales at the weekend, helped launch the 12th Mater Heart Badge Campaign.
Fundraisers are hoping to establish a family heart clinic to detect people at risk from the syndrome and help them lead normal lives.
SADS is caused by heart defects but the problems can be hard to detect.
Experts reckon the disease claims the life of a person under 35 years at least weekly in Ireland.
Now Mater Foundation campaigners want to build what they say will be the first formal clinic of its kind in Ireland to help detect more people with the heart problems.
Its chief executive Mary Moorhead said: "Deaths from SADS are so unexpected and exact diagnosis very difficult.
"The loved ones left behind feel confused, bewildered and guilty. They also struggle to uncover a reason for their loss.
"Many families then fear that they or their children may be at risk so it is crucial we provide a clinic where we can help them."
Yesterday the foundation launched its 12th annual fundraising drive with the help of Horgan and RTÉ trio Des Cahill, Shane O’Donoghue and Mícheál Ó Muireachtaigh.
Now Mater Foundation heart badges are being sold for €2 a time to raise the money as well as boost the profile of the campaign.
Most victims of SADS are active youngsters who have reported no heart problems.
Those who have died from SADS have included 24-year-old Tyrone GAA football captain Cormac McAnallen, Royal Armagh School rugby team captain John McCall and Kevin Quinn, a teenage hurler from Co Cork.
Campaigners, who will be selling badges between February 25 and March 13, hope the clinic will help prevent further deaths.
Ms Moorhead said: "The clinic will provide a comprehensive screening facility for direct family members, most at rick, and help reduce the incidence of these tragic and silent deaths."
Mater Hospital heart specialist Dr Joseph Galvin said many of the heart conditions that cause sudden death in the young could be identifiable through screening.
"With treatment many people with these conditions can potentially have normal life spans and lifestyles," he said.