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Annual memorial rugby tournament passes £30,000 to help tackle genetic heart conditions

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An annual rugby tournament which supports a life-saving cardiac service at Morriston Hospital is going from strength to strength.

The proceeds from the fifth annual Decky Memorial Touch Rugby Tournament, held at Loughor RFC, has taken the total amount raised to date to more than £30,000 for the Inherited Cardiac Condition (ICC) Service in Morriston Hospital.

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The tournament was set up in memory of former Loughor player Richard Thomas, who was just 29 years old when he died of cardiomyopathy – a disease that affects heart muscle tissue – at Singleton Hospital in June 2017.

Tournament organizer and close friend, Councillor Andrew Stevens, said: “Richard Thomas, known as Decky, passed away in June 2017 with cardiomyopathy.

“That year coincided with my first year as Gorseinon Town Mayor and we wanted to find a local charity. We came up with the cardiac unit in Morriston Hospital. It has spiraled from there – so far we have raised almost £32,000.

“Losing a close friend hit us all hard. I spoke with the family to make sure that they were on board, and they have been absolutely brilliant. It’s just grown and grown.

“This year’s tournament was outstanding. It was the most we have raised, more than £6,800, beating our last total by £1,200. It was also the biggest tournament to date with the most people there – bear in mind most of the teams and people who attended wouldn’t have known Decky. It shows that his name is being honoured.

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“The cause is extremely important in as much as sudden cardiac arrest – especially in youngsters, sportsmen and sportswomen – is a big issue. It’s about finding out whether there’s an inherited problem before something happens.

“If we can help just one family, then it’s all been worth it.”

Suzanne Richards (ICC nurse) Councillor Andrew Stevens, Whitney Thomas (sister), Rosamond Thomas (grandmother), Jason Thomas (brother), Louise Norgrove (ICC nurse) and Samantha Rumming (inherited cardiac conditions coordinator) (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Richard’s sister, Whitney Thomas, said: “I would like to express our thanks from Decky’s whole family for all the hard work and the exceptional care all the staff are doing within the inherited cardiac conditions service.  

“All the team have been greatly supportive of us as a whole family since the loss of my brother in 2017. We can vouch first-hand for the care and support the team provide.

“Whilst it is a very difficult reason surrounding why we have met the cardiac team and the nurses with the loss of Richard, we cannot thank them enough.

“The team is helping other families in getting the correct treatment for various heart conditions, improving their services, promoting and reaching out to those who need them whilst being an ongoing support network.

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“We can see as a family how far they have come as a unit and as a team in making sure the exceptional care is being provided to every person.

“Also, we would like to say thank you to Andrew Stevens who, following the passing of Richard, has ensured his legacy lives on through fundraising which will help other families. 

“Also, the fundraising will help open up opportunities for the ICC service to excel and help more families get the support and correct treatment they need.

“Richard would be so proud of everything that has been achieved in such a difficult situation.”

Louise Norgrove, an inherited cardiac conditions nurse specialist at Morriston Hospital, said: “Following on from such a tragedy, the legacy Decky has left behind is incredible thanks to the commitment and drive of his family and friends. The time and commitment invested in organising this annual tournament is remarkable.

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“Since the ICC service was established in 2018, with funding from the British Heart Foundation, the Decky family have been instrumental in raising public awareness of Inherited Cardiac Conditions. Their efforts and support helped the ICC team significantly in securing substantive funding from the health commissioners in 2021.

“Their fundraising efforts have helped the ICC team promote our service and raise awareness of often rare conditions with the public and health care professionals.

“This in turn has improved referral rates and reinforced the importance of patients being able to access clinical and genetic testing for these conditions, which can potentially save lives.”

Lead image: Action from this year’s annual Decky Memorial Touch Rugby Tournament. (Image: Chris Chapman)

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