The wife of a former Celtic football scout and technical football director at Brentford FC who died suddenly from cardiomyopathy, aged just 28, has set up a special heart screening day for youngsters to identify undiagnosed heart conditions.
Suzanne Rowan lost her husband Robert to what is commonly known as sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS) in November. Mr Rowan, from Kirkcaldy, had been appointed as the technical director at Championship club Brentford in February 2018.
Previously, he worked as a scout and analyst for Celtic FC and the Scottish FA. He had also being sporting director of Stenhousemuir FC.
Mrs Rowan, who is also from Fife but has been living in London for the past four years, has teamed up with the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) with the aim of raising awareness of the condition.
Every week in the UK at least 12 young people between the age of 14 and 35 die of undiagnosed heart conditions.
Former Scotland, Celtic and Motherwell star Phil O’Donnell died, aged 35, after collapsing on the pitch during a match. He was later found to have suffered left ventricular failure as part of the SADS umbrella of heart conditions.
Mrs Rowan is aiming to initially help raise £5,000 needed to provide heart screening for 100 young people.
The event, which she hopes will be the first of many, will take place as part of the Brentford Sports Fest on 12 May. Along with ten friends, Mrs Rowan is planning to run the London Landmarks Half Marathon today and the team have raised more than £22,000 so far. She said: “We want to continue Robert’s memory by doing these things in his name, but also help other families and having the screening to potentially identify other young people who are at risk and give them help.
“It’s difficult to detect heart conditions without the screening and there are so many under that umbrella of SADS.
“It needs cardiologists to look at these things and that’s what CRY are trying to do.”
She added: “Robert was only 28 years old and having heart failure wasn’t normal for a guy that age who was normally fit and healthy. There’s so many factors involved – people don’t know about it – all people under the age of 35 should be screened for free.”
Mrs Rowan said she was planning to link up CRY in Scotland with a view to potentially rolling out screening events north of the Border.
She also plans to contact MSPs and wants the Scottish Government to do more to help with heart screening for the under-35s.
She said : “It’s on my to-do list, calling on the government to provide support, get MSPs involved and make everyone aware there’s a difference between people dying of heart failure in their 60s, which is still tragic, and those who die under the age of 35.”
Mr Rowan was 23 and working in a bank in Rosyth when he was first approached by Brentford, A few weeks later, he was working for the English Championship club’s scouting department
Warning signs for SADS include a family history of unexpected, unexplained sudden death under the age of 40, fainting or seizure during exercise, excitement or being startled and consistent or unusual chest pain with shortness of breath during exercise.