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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Abigail Nicholson

Dad helps schoolboy spot potential problem during life saving test

A dad helped a schoolboy spot a potential problem with his heart after a vital check at school.

The Oliver King Foundation, run by Mark King and his wife and Joanne, has been working with thousands of schools, gyms, leisure centres and organisations over the last 10 years following the death of their 12-year-old son. Oliver was in a school swimming race when he died of Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS), a hidden heart condition that kills more than 19 young people every week.

Ever since his death, the family have been campaigning for legislation to change, raising awareness of SADS in communities and delivering more than 6,000 life-saving defibrillators to organisations across the country.

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The most recent project they have been working on started after they spotted a potential problem in a Bootle schoolboy. Last month, Mark King visited the primary school of Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher, a supporter of The OK Foundation, to perform ECG tests on a small sample of 20 students.

The test checks for an irregular heartbeat, which can be an early sign of underlying conditions - but one student displayed unusual rhythms and has been sent for immediate further testing. The OK Foundation has started the search for a potential site in Liverpool to open an extensive ECG testing centre for young people which would also act as a community hub for those who have suffered cardiac and chest trauma.

Mark King said: "We still lose up to 19 young lives a week, and this has to stop. There is more for us to do.

"In the UK, we have outstanding healthcare through the NHS, but very little preventative care. An ECG test can detect an issue with a child's heart before anything bad happens.

"I want to open a centre, starting in Liverpool and branching out, where children can come for ECG testing, and people who have suffered cardiac arrests or are fitted with pacemakers can meet to build a sense of community. There will be a fully-registered cardiac nurse on site, as well as access to mental health facilities and a gym.

"We want this centre to become part of the community as well as saving lives. That's the next phase of The OK Foundation. This is a massive project and we want to lead on it."

In March 2022, 10 years after the death of Oliver King, the British government finally committed to installing defibrillators in every school in the UK as Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi, pledged to fund the entire rollout.

When asked about the long-term goals of The OK Foundation, Mark continued: "Full legislation is the goal. There are not enough defibrillators, signage and directions as to where they are.

"There is not enough information out there. Until something happens to a family member or close friend, people aren't looking into it and realising it has to stop. I'm the same. My Oliver isn't the first to die in school from a cardiac arrest.

"It shouldn't be this way. We have to make sure everyone is safe."

You can donate towards a new life-saving ECG Testing Centre in Liverpool for The OK Foundation HERE.


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