Annual memorial rugby tournament passes £30,000 to help tackle genetic heart conditions – Swansea Bay News

An annual rugby tournament supporting a life-saving heart service at Morriston Hospital is growing in popularity.

Proceeds from the fifth annual Decky Memorial Touch rugby tournament, held at Loughor RFC, have brought the total raised to date to more than £30,000 for the Inherited Heart Disease (ICC) service at Morriston Hospital.

The tournament was created in memory of former Loughor player Richard Thomas, who died in Singleton Hospital in June 2017 aged just 29 from cardiomyopathy – a disease affecting the heart muscle tissue.

Tournament organizer and close friend Councilor Andrew Stevens said: “Richard Thomas, known as Decky, died of cardiomyopathy in June 2017.

“This year coincided with my first year as mayor of Gorseinon Town and we wanted to find a local charity. We came to the heart ward at Morriston Hospital. It’s been a spiral from there – we’ve raised almost £32,000 so far.

“The loss of a close friend has hit us all hard. I spoke to the family to make sure they were on board and they were absolutely brilliant. It just grew and grew.

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“This year’s tournament was outstanding. It was the largest sum we raised, more than £6,800, beating our last sum by £1,200. It was also the largest and most-attended tournament to date – keep in mind that most of the teams and participants didn’t know Decky. It shows that his name is honored.

“The cause is extremely important in that sudden cardiac arrest is a big issue, especially among young people and athletes. It’s about finding out if there’s an inherited problem before anything happens.

“If we can only help one family, then everything was worth it.”

Suzanne Richards (ICC Nurse) Councilor Andrew Stevens, Whitney Thomas (Sister), Rosamond Thomas (Grandmother), Jason Thomas (Brother), Louise Norgrove (ICC Nurse) and Samantha Rumming (Hereditary Heart Disease Coordinator) (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Richard’s sister Whitney Thomas said: “I would like to express our gratitude to Decky’s entire family for all of the hard work and exceptional care shown by all of the staff at the Inherited Heart Disease Service.

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“The whole team has been very supportive to us as a family since losing my brother in 2017. We can vouch first hand for the care and support of the team.

“While it is a very difficult reason why we met the heart team and nurses with the loss of Richard, we cannot thank them enough.

“The team helps other families get the right treatment for various heart conditions, improve their services, nurture and reach those who need them, while being an ongoing support network.

“We can see as a family how far they have come as a unit and as a team to ensure that every person is given the exceptional care they deserve.

“Likewise, we I would like to thank Andrew Stevens who, following Richard’s death, ensured his legacy lives on by raising funds that will help other families.

“Also, the fundraiser will help provide opportunities for the ICC service to stand out and help more families get the support and right treatment they need.

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“Richard would be so proud of everything that has been achieved in such a difficult situation.”

Louise Norgrove, a hereditary heart disease nurse at Morriston Hospital said: “The legacy Decky left after such a tragedy is incredible thanks to the dedication and drive of his family and friends. The time and dedication that goes into organizing this annual tournament is remarkable.

“Since the launch of the ICC service in 2018 with funding from the British Heart Foundation, the Decky family has been instrumental in raising public awareness of inherited heart disease. Their efforts and support significantly helped the ICC team secure substantial funding from the Health Commissioners in 2021.

“Your fundraising efforts have helped the ICC team advance our ministry and raise awareness of often rare diseases among the public and healthcare professionals.

“This, in turn, has improved referral rates and increased the importance that patients have access to clinical and genetic testing for these potentially life-saving conditions.”

Cover Photo: Action from this year’s Decky Memorial Touch Rugby Tournament. (Image: Chris Chapman)

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