Aberdeenshire family inspires free preventative health initiative

An Aberdeenshire family has inspired a free preventative health initiative across the area following an untimely death.

Patient charity Haemochromatosis UK has launched a preventative health initiative across rural Aberdeenshire in memory of local resident Miranda McHardy, who died suddenly from genetic haemochromatosis aged 59 last year.

Although Genetic haemochromatosis is common in Scotland, it is rarely diagnosed. Untreated, the condition can lead to toxic iron overload, where the body is unable to process excess iron. The condition can cause liver disease, cancer, heart disease, chronic fatigue, diabetes, severe joint pain, sexual health issues, dementia and mental health issues. It can affect men and women at any age, but is typically diagnosed when people reach adulthood. An early diagnosis is known to improve clinical outcomes.

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Miranda's sister Louisa Leader said: "My beloved sister Miranda McHardy died in March last year as a result of late diagnosis of Haemochromatosis. Her early and untimely death left behind three devastated children and her husband Julian, not to mention three siblings, nephews nieces and a close extended family."

​Miranda McHardy (age 59) with her therapy dog Spud.​Miranda McHardy (age 59) with her therapy dog Spud.
​Miranda McHardy (age 59) with her therapy dog Spud.

The charity's programme brings together local elected representatives, MSPs at the Scottish Parliament and Scottish MPs at Westminster with local GPs, pharmacies, libraries and community groups to raise awareness of genetic haemochromatosis and provide preventative health screening for the condition.

This month, the charity, led by families with the condition, will contact over 25,000 households across Aberdeenshire to offer a free genetic health check by post for the condition. Leaflets with information about genetic haemochromatosis and details of how to order a free health check will be delivered to homes across the area.

Chief Executive of Haemochromatosis UK, Neil McClements said: “We were inspired by the McHardy family’s determination to transform their personal tragedy into a better outcome for other people across rural Aberdeenshire. We’re working with the whole community to offer free genetic screening for this common, but often undiagnosed treatable condition. Early diagnosis saves lives – and diagnosis starts with public awareness.”

Louisa added: "Miranda was one of life’s givers, constantly caring for everyone around her, she was a counsellor and was a volunteer Samaritan for many years.

"She has left a huge hole in our lives and we are all determined to try to raise awareness of this genetic condition. If Miranda had known what she had she would still be here now.”

Local residents can order a free health check kit using the leaflet, which is being distributed to over 25,000 homes across rural Aberdeenshire. A home testing kit is then delivered and returned by post.

Once the kit is returned, within two weeks, the charity will write with results to everyone tested and their NHS GP, with information about their personalised test results and what to do next.

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Everyone who takes a test is provided with a free 45-minute appointment with one of the charity’s specialist nurses, to discuss the results and discuss next steps.

This programme is free to everyone participating. For more information visit www.ironoverload.org.uk.