Deborah Dixon, Founder of The Aaron James Dixon Memorial Fund

Funding screening days to help save young people with heart defects

My son Aaron went out to celebrate his sister’s birthday on 3 September 2011 and came home in the early hours of the morning. He was in bed all day as young adults often are, and I was busy making dinner that evening when my husband went up to wake him. From the screams that came out of Gary, I knew something was wrong… Our only son had passed away. It was too late to save him.

I was so confused. How could a fit and healthy 23-year-old just die? We waited two agonising months for answers. The coroner called us personally to explain that Aaron had died from an undetected heart defect. I’d never heard of the condition, but we were signposted to the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young.

I was not in a good place, so it was 18 months before I looked them up online. I was shocked to learn that at least 12 young people were losing their lives every week due to undetected heart defects. A simple ECG could have prevented these tragedies. I had to do something, so I made the decision to start raising money to fund free heart screening for young adults.

It’s hard to explain how much losing Aaron has devastated our family and everyone who knew him. For a long time, I was in a really dark place, but we have a beautiful 27-year-old daughter and a grandson who are our reasons for carrying on.

Both have to be screened regularly, as Aaron’s condition is genetic and hereditary. I don’t think about what could happen as that would drive me crazy! Life couldn’t be cruel enough to take both our children.

The important thing for me is to keep busy. If I stop, I’ll drown. Through constant activity throughout the year, I’ve raised more than £310,000 and screened 3,454 people aged between 14 and 35. Of them, 115 have been referred with abnormalities – including one young lady who went on to have a life-saving heart transplant.

I loved Aaron with all my heart. I couldn’t protect him from something we had no idea he had, but I can help to save other young lives.

The Aaron James Dixon Memorial Fund