Valiants fan Tony Evans suffered a heart attack around 48 hours before a match at Vale Park in August 2018, but on the day of game slipped into cardiac arrest before he sadly died at the age of 67.
Since his death, daughter Tamsin Evans-Cliffe has been raising awareness of heart disease, particularly for those in the age group most at risk, 50 to 79.
Now, with the help of the Heart Centre at the Royal Stoke University Hospital and the football club, Tamsin organised a drop-in clinic at Vale Park in Burslem on Thursday for anyone to attend and receive a full heart check – including a clinical consultation and diagnostic testing.
Tamsin, aged 30, is the business support manager for the Heart Centre at UHNM. She said: “Looking back, I now know that my dad ticked many boxes – he was a Type-2 diabetic and smoked. But he never looked ill.
“He was an engineer and travelled all around the world and never worried. When he had the heart attack, he probably experienced a slight discomfort which he just brushed off, which is what happens to a lot of people.
“It’s important to raise awareness and have events like this because it encourages people to come and get checked.
“I wouldn’t want another person to feel this loss. All I have left of my dad is his legacy and I want to use that to do something positive.”
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a major cause of death worldwide and its symptoms include chest pain and shortness of breath. The disease can often go undetected.
At the event, patients were triaged by a specialist nurse and had basic observations taken. If the nurse felt it was necessary, a cardiologist was on hand to talk to the patient and signpost them to other services or further appointments.
UHNM cardiology consultant Dr Simon Duckett attended the clinic to see patients and offer advice.
He said: “Events like this are great because we need to raise awareness of the risks. It’s so important to have days like this because we need to raise awareness and it is an opportunity for the general public to come along and get checked out.
“It is possible to make lifestyle changes and adjust your diet to reduce risk. It’s better to prevent than to deal with the consequences.
“It’s also important to get blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly – a lot of GPs offer well man and well woman clinics now where you can get checked by a doctor or nurse.
“Coming along to the drop-in clinic might just give people peace of mind and reassurance, but if something is picked up, it could save lives.
“I hope that people go away from the clinic feeling more knowledgeable about risk factors. An event like this could save lives.”
Joanne Hallett is deputy matron at the UHNM Heart Centre. She thinks the event is an ‘exciting opportunity to raise awareness’.
She added: “It’s lovely to see people coming along and getting checked.
“It is so important for us to raise awareness because the age group most at risk is 50 to 79 which is a very stoic age group – people of this age are more likely to ignore any symptoms they may have.
“It’s a bit of a first to have a clinic at somewhere like Vale Park but I think it’s a totally different experience than going to a GP. It’s a bit more relaxed. They receive a warm welcome and we have specialist nurses on hand for them to speak to.
“Events like these really have the potential to save lives.”
Joanne Palmer is deputy directorate manager for the Heart Centre and said a routine referral from a GP to see a consultant can take up to 13 weeks. With the clinic, a consultant is on hand to chat with patients immediately.
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She added: “A routine referral from a GP to see a consultant can take up to 13 weeks. With the clinic, we have the consultant on hand to chat to patients straightaway.
“Patients will also get a longer consultation than if they were to go to an appointment in hospital.”
“This has all happened because of Tamsin. We’re hopeful that if this event is successful, we could do similar things in the future.”
Don Machin, from Harpfields, went along to the drop-in clinic for peace of mind.
He said: “It’s very good to have an event like this. I believe it will be beneficial for a lot of people.
“People worry but you can come here and have peace of mind.
“It means you can fast track and see a consultant straightaway. Then they will write a letter to your doctor to inform them of what has happened. It’s a lot quicker than the usual process.”
Also in attendance was Ian Spencer, 49, from Newcastle-under-Lyme. West Ham fan Ian has witnessed two people collapse and suffer heart attacks at football matches.
He added: “I am on blood pressure tablets but it’s been a few years and I just thought this was a good opportunity to get checked out. A few of my friends have also told me that they’re coming down as well.
“It’s very good to have a clinic like this because it can be difficult having appointments within the constraints of the NHS. This is a different environment.
“I’d like to see more events like this but maybe on a weekend because a lot of people work during the week and may miss out.”