Silent killer claims the lives of son and daughter

Sean Lawson. Picture: submitted
Sean Lawson. Picture: submitted
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A FAMILY whose son died suddenly in his sleep have spoken of their anguish after doctors confirmed that he was a victim of the same rare syndrome that killed his sister ten years ago.

Sean Lawson, 21, a fit young man who hoped to begin a career in the RAF, died at his flat in Dundee last Monday.

The Lawson family

The Lawson family

Yesterday his parents, Mariette and Andrew Lawson, said they were devastated to learn that he suffered the same condition, known as Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS), that claimed his sister Moira’s life when she was 20 years old.

Although doctors were able to confirm that Sean – known to his family as Euan – died of SDS, they were unable to pinpoint an exact cause.

Victims of SDS, which is the most common cause of unexpected death in the under-35s, suffer a cardiac arrest, often during sleep.

Signs, which can include the thickening of the heart muscle and electrical impulses that disrupt the natural rhythm of the heart, are rarely picked up in otherwise healthy youngsters.

Yesterday, Mr Lawson said he and his wife, and their daughter Rhona, were in shock at Euan’s death: “He had his whole life ahead of him and then he goes to bed one night and that’s it, he never wakes up again – it’s heartbreaking. He had lots of friends, his sense of humour was fantastic and he cared for people. It doesn’t seem fair.”

Mr Lawson, 60, a driver for Tesco, said the family were struggling to cope with the news that Euan died the same way as his sister.

“For us to lose two children and not know why either of them died makes it twice as heartbreaking,” he said.

“Our problem is that there’s no closure. We don’t know how our children died.

“If they die in a car crash it’s final, you know what happened, and why they died, but for us we’re just left in the dark.”

The family, including Euan, underwent tests after Moira’s death in order to determine if there was a genetic or other underlying reason for her death, but nothing abnormal was found.

“Euan was fit, in fact they were both fit young people. Euan wasn’t a big drinker. I think he was only ever drunk once and he was so sick afterwards that he vowed never to do it again,” his father said.

“We’ve been asking the same question now as we have been for the last ten years – why have our children died?” The family are once again to go through the same extensive battery of tests by doctors to see if they can find a cause.

But Mr Lawson said he does not expect to receive an answer and has urged more investment into SDS research by the NHS.

He added: “There’s now one new test since Moira died and that’s for something called sleep apnoea. So who knows, maybe they’ll find a problem with that in our genes, but we aren’t hopeful. These sudden deaths seem to be happening more and more and at some point scientists are going to have to spend some time and money to try and find out what is wrong in these cases.”

Euan’s funeral will be held today at Dundee Crematorium.