Free heart tests in memory of fellow student

26 May 2009 14:28:00.000

PA 145/09

A new national campaign aimed at reducing the number of undiagnosed heart conditions in apparently fit and healthy young people will come to The University of Nottingham on Tuesday 2 and Wednesday 3 June 2009 - in memory of Nottingham law student, Neil Desai, a talented sportsman who died suddenly from a heart defect, when he was just 22.


The CRY Philips Test My Heart Tour 09 is the first free tour of its kind in England and has been made possible by the charity CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young), the health and well-being company Philips, and through the fundraising efforts of families whose lives have been affected by Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS) or Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) such as the Neil Desai Foundation and the Gwyneth Forrester Trust.


Anyone aged between 14 and 35 can have their heart tested at a specially built mobile unit at the Nottingham University Sports Centre. The mobile unit, donated by Philips, consists of three rooms equipped with Philips’ ECG and ECHO equipment. A doctor and a team of cardiac physicians will be present - each screening will take no more than 30 minutes. Simply go to to book your free appointment.

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Every week, 12 young people lose their lives through SCD in the UK — this is a statistic that CRY, Philips and the families hope to reduce. The national tour aims to test over 3,000 14 to 35 year olds to identify heart conditions which could potentially prove fatal if left untreated.


A staggering 80 per cent of apparently healthy 14 to 35 year olds who die from SDS will have shown no previous signs of heart defects until it is too late. It is widely accepted that testing saves lives, and the CRY Philips Test My Heart Tour 09 is likely to detect conditions in people that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.


Neil Desai was an aspiring barrister and world ranked squash player who died suddenly and unexpectedly on his 22nd birthday in September 2008, whilst on holiday in Spain. A post-mortem examination showed Mr Desai died of natural causes and the conclusion by three different pathologists was Sudden Adult Death Syndrome.


Neil Desai, from New Malden in Surrey, was a talented cricketer and squash player, ranked 269th in the world. He was voted sports personality of the year by his peers at The University of Nottingham in 2008, and was part of the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS), a Government funded programme which encourages performance athletes in higher education with coaching, and strength and conditioning training.


Neil’s mother Urmi, his father Ravi and his brother Samir will be at University Park on Tuesday.


His mother, Urmi Desai said: “We were deeply distressed by the death of Neil last year from an undiagnosed heart condition. In Italy cardiac testing is mandatory for any young people playing sport at a school level or above. The Italian testing progamme, over a period of over 20 years, has dramatically reduced the occurrence of SADS in young people, and saved many young people’s lives.


“In the UK we do not have a cardiac screening policy, and young people are dying unnecessarily – without a test it is practically impossible to tell whether a child has a heart condition; Neil, was very healthy and athletic, and there is no history of these types of death in our family. Losing your child is the worst loss. You never think your child will die before you and as a parent you hope to protect your child. I very much hope we will soon implement a nationwide testing policy, especially as we encourage youngsters to train for the 2012 Olympics.


“We have found CRY to be a great source of comfort for our family in these dark times. Reading the long list of stories of other parents who have lost children on the CRY website, one cannot help but be struck by how sad and unnecessary this loss of life is.”


Vaughan Williams, Director of Sport and Physical Recreation, said: “The statistics related to Cardiac Risk in the Young are alarming. We were deeply shocked and saddened by the death of Neil last year, an exceptionally talented student both on and off the squash court. His enthusiasm for his sport and for life in general was infectious. It is extremely important that young people get themselves tested and we are delighted that there will be an opportunity on campus for students to do this. We are actively encouraging as many people as we can to take this test and we are very grateful to Neil’s family who have helped to make this event possible. There will also be another opportunity for testing in October, at the start of the new academic year.”


The Neil Desai Foundation has now teamed up with the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) and Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) to campaign for all sportsmen and women to be tested by their clubs for heart problems.


Alison Cox, CEO, CRY, said: “The fundraising work of our CRY families and the involvement of Philips mean that we can provide a free mobile testing service on this scale for the first time. Aiming to test over 3,000 young people, this is a major step towards our aim of reducing the number of Young Sudden Cardiac Deaths in the UK. It also allows us to draw attention to our new regional postcard. We hope that these initiatives will drive awareness of Sudden Death Syndrome and emphasise the importance of testing.”


Peter Maskell, Chairman, Philips UK, said: “With our heritage in healthcare, including ECG and ECHO machines, Philips is extremely proud to partner with CRY in an initiative aimed at reducing the number of Sudden Cardiac Deaths. 12 young sudden cardiac deaths a week is a staggering amount and highlights how much needs to be done to prevent such tragedies. Our hope is that this mobile unit will both identify existing conditions in people and raise awareness of the issue more broadly.”


Sudden death syndrome strikes down hundreds of young people — many of whom were involved in sport — at the prime of their lives. Sport does not cause this problem — but it can exacerbate an existing undiagnosed condition and the high risk group is the young.  80% of those that die have had no discernible symptoms. The only way to identify those young people that are “asymptomatic” is through screening.  


The screening in Nottingham is part of a national tour of 12 further destinations in England, many of which will be held in memory of a young person who lost their life. For further information about details of testing locations and to book free appointments go to


— Ends —


Notes to editors:

The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.


More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.


The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.


Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives ( in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.


CRY was founded in May 1995 to raise awareness of Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome (SADS). As well as campaigning and lobbying and the provision of its subsidised cardiac screening programme for young people (35 and under), the charity also provides counselling and support to bereaved families as well as young individuals who may be diagnosed.  CRY is the UK's foremost specialist cardiac charity that offers information written by medical experts as well as a dedicated counselling service for both bereaved families and young people living with a rare heart condition.  Please call 01737 36322 Monday – Friday:


The Desai family has set up a foundation in Neil’s name to raise money for CRY and support other causes dear to him. Please visit  to donate.


Royal Philips Electronics of the Netherlands (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHI) is a diversified Health and Well-being company, focused on improving people’s lives through timely innovations. As a world leader in healthcare, lifestyle and lighting, Philips integrates technologies and design into people-centric solutions, based on fundamental customer insights and the brand promise of “sense and simplicity”. Headquartered in the Netherlands, Philips employs approximately 116,000 employees in more than 60 countries worldwide. With sales of EUR 26 billion in 2008, the company is a market leader in cardiac care, acute care and home healthcare, energy efficient lighting solutions and new lighting applications, as well as lifestyle products for personal well-being and pleasure with strong leadership positions in flat TV, male shaving and grooming, portable entertainment and oral healthcare. News from Philips is located at

Story credits

 More information is available from Diane Hardwick , Deputy Director of Physical Recreation and Sport at the University on +44 (0)115 951 5514, or Jo Hudson and Sally Gray at Trinity Public Relations on +44 (0) 20 8786 3860 or 0770 948 7959,
Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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