Grieving mum issues heartfelt warning after daughter ‘never returned’ from swim

A devastated mother has sent a warning to people after her daughter went swimming and "never returned".

51-year-old Gilly Atkinson, from Poulton-le-Flyde in Lancashire, has urged people to pay keen attention to the symptoms of heart conditions after her daughter, 29-year-old Laura West, died on April 16 this year.

Laura, who had been an army medic for eight years, suffered a sudden cardiac arrest when swimming at Lancaster University's swimming pool, reports Lancs Live.

Gilly said: "Everybody loved her, and I'm not just saying it because she's my daughter, everyone that met her, there's not been one bad word said against her."

She also issued a heartfelt warning: "Any dizziness, light-headedness or feeling a bit weak, maybe after a jog, or being a bit out of breath or feeling a bit lightheaded after doing something untoward, don't ignore it, get checked it because these underlying conditions they come out of the blue after exertion."

Now, Gilly has organised several fundraisers, including one to raise money for benches in Laura's memory and another to fund defibrillators in the county.

"I'd hate for another family to go through what we've been through, and it's not just the family that have been affected, it's the army too because they're like a family unit in themselves," she said.

"The general public can use these units and it states on the unit themselves how to use them, in the matter of a cardiac arrest time is of the essence on how quick you use them."

Gilly drew on Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen's experience during the Euro 2020 match against Finland. The footballer and Laura were the same age when they suffered cardiac arrests.

Gilly said: "With how quickly he was treated on the pitch, he's lucky to be here today.

"Eriksen is a prime example of how important defibrillators are, the quicker you shock someone, the quicker you can bring them back to life and its so important in a cardiac arrest.

"He has a chance to live now and his heart condition can be looked after for the rest of his life. My daughter was found to have a heart condition, and she could have been treated for the rest of her life and it's so important now."

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The cause of Laura's death was an underlying heart condition known as ARVC, a disease which causes fatty tissues to replace the normal heart muscle. It interrupts normal electrical signals and may cause irregular and potentially life-threatening heart rhythms.

Gilly was also keen for people to be aware that defibrillators are the most effective when used within three minutes from the onset of symptoms.

Gilly said: "Defibrillators are so close to my heart now and we do need to get as many out there as possible, but there's not enough funding.

"It's not just old people that suffer heart problems, it can start from an early age. It's a genetic condition and it's something she's inherited from me unfortunately. Now my boys have to be tested, we're waiting for gene testing for them.

"It's so important we get this out there so people know, don't ignore signs and symptoms."

You can donate to the fundraiser for a defibrillator here.

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