Kerry Woods, 32, from Northern Ireland had the shock of her life when she discovered herself and all four of her children have long QT syndrome.The rare hereditary heart condition can cause fainting and episodes of abnormal heart rhythms, particularly when taking part in strenuous activities.
“I was diagnosed with long QT last year and knew there was a 50/50 chance my children might have it as well so I decided to get them tested,” says Kerry.
“We all had ECG heart tests which showed our QT was long and blood tests which went for genetic testing and confirmed we all had the condition in our genes.”
Kerry knew she needed something to give her peace of mind that all four children were safe when at school or out with friends.
“They’ve all got their name, ‘long QT syndrome’, ‘heart condition’, their medication details and my phone number engraved. If they happen to faint or go into cardiac arrest, information like that is really important.”
It’s a weight off Kerry’s shoulders knowing the children have her number with them, should anything go wrong at school.
“If they are any problems it enables people to contact me straightaway. The condition is uncommon in children and to look at them you’d think there’s nothing wrong.
“If you saw them lying on the ground you wouldn’t automatically think they’ve got a heart condition, so it’s important they have something with them that makes people aware.”
Andrew and Aaron have found their wristbands useful for calling Kerry when they need picking up from somewhere as well.
“Neither of them know my number off-by-heart so it’s handy for when they need to book the mum taxi!” says Kerry.
Kerry hasn’t experienced any complications with the condition, however she feared things wouldn’t be quite so rosy for her children.
“The fact that all four of them have the condition was difficult to take at first. My mum and I don’t have any issues with it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all the kids will be the same.”
15-year-old Andrew, 12-year-old Aaron, and little Amber and Aimee who are 9 and 7 have coped with the diagnosis really well and help each other with the condition.
“In many ways it’s a blessing that we all have it rather than just one or two of us,” says Kerry.
The first question all four children asked was ‘when can we get our medical ID bracelets’?
“Andrew and Aaron chose silicone wristbands with engraved ID tags, while Amber and Amy have watch-style wristbands in girly pink.
With such a complex heart condition it can be tricky for Kerry to teach her children about the precautions they need to take.
“It’s a challenge understanding the condition and getting used to what you can and can’t do. I wasn’t diagnosed until later in life and I’ve always been fine, so chances are the kids will be too.
“I often think I might be over-reacting but you don’t want to be ignorant in case something serious happens. That’s why we cover all bases with things like the ID bracelets.
“I tell the children everyone has something that makes them different and this is our thing. We just have to take a few precautions but other than that we can live life as anyone would.”