Laura West was just 29 when she suffered a fatal cardiac arrest after a swim last April. She had no previous symptoms and was a fit and healthy medic serving in the Army at 3 Medical Regiment in Preston.
Now, during #heartmonth for the Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) charity, Laura’s fiancée, Sophie Wilson, has launched a fund in her memory to establish heart screening days for young people in Lancaster and Morecambe.
The screenings would be free for 14 to 35-year-olds and help to detect any undiagnosed heart conditions to prevent further deaths.
After her death, it was discovered that Laura had the heart condition Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC) which can be genetic so now her family are undergoing tests to find out if they might have the same condition.
“It’s one of those heart conditions where you might not know about it until it’s too late,” said Sophie, aged 28.
“I want to raise awareness of it in the local community as I would hate for this to happen to anyone else.
Laura’s death has left a huge hole in my life and her family’s lives. We had been planning our wedding and had hoped to have children.”
Sophie met Laura online and they had their first date in Manchester on Halloween. They had been together six years and Laura had proposed two years ago in Singapore, on the way back from the couple’s visit to her dad’s home in Australia.
“Laura was amazing,” said Sophie. “She was chatty, very positive and helped so many people. She was my soulmate.”
The couple set up home in Lancaster where Sophie works as an operations manager for Alliance Medical. Laura was originally from Blackpool and had attended Millfield High School before joining the Army, where she was a corporal.
Laura had taken lunch to Sophie just before going for her second swim of the week at Lancaster University and it was while she was completing her final lengths that she had a cardiac arrest. Lifeguards jumped into the pool to help and tried, in vain, to revive her.
Sophie was phoned by the Air Ambulance and told to go to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary where Laura had been taken.
“I was absolutely devastated,” said Sophie.
The former Ripley St Thomas pupil is now hoping to raise £8,000 to fund the first screening in Lancaster, possibly at a local school or Lancaster University. Further screenings cost £5,000 each. Her aim is to fund at least two local screenings a year. About 125 people can be screened each time.
Since Laura’s death, Sophie has been screened but the nearest facility she could find was in the Midlands.
CRY organise the screenings and Sophie has already raised more than £600 for the charity by walking 12 miles a day for a week to raise awareness of the 12 young lives lost weekly to sudden cardiac death.
Laura’s regimental sergeant major is organising some charity events too and further donations to Laura’s Memorial Fund can be made here.
Sophie has also set up a Facebook page with more information, which can be found at "The Laura West Memorial Fund - CRY" on Facebook.