The inspirational story of of Matthew Dewhirst

PUBLISHED: 11:52 21 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:25 20 February 2013

The inspirational story of of Matthew Dewhirst

The inspirational story of of Matthew Dewhirst

A north Shropshire mother is determined the death of her beloved teenage son will prove an inspiration, not an ending

The term gentle giant is bandied around so frequently its become a cliche but there is no more apt way of describing the lifeforce that was Matthew Dewhirst.

An exceptional musician and chorister, a keen sportsman, a fun-loving friend, a thoughtful mentor to youngsters, and a caring son; there was no doubt that 17-year-old Matthew had already lived an eventful life and that a promising future lay ahead.

But in a moment all that potential was cruelly snuffed out.Matthew, a day student at Ellesmere College, was taking part in a week of fitness training at the school at the start of the summer holidays this year when he began.

It was not the first time Matthew had experienced dizziness, chest pains and even blackouts. Indeed, hed been examined and tested many times since the first incident at the age of seven. Each time, with test results repeatedly failing to highlight a problem, doctors put his symptoms down to dehydration and stress.

On this day, after a long drink and a rest, Matthew said he was ready to join in the fitness session again. He stood up then, seconds later, he fell to the floor. An ambulance was called; an air ambulance followed; but nothing could be done to revive him.

Matthew died from what is termed SADs Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome. It has a junior equivalent, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The result of each death is the same: a family and a community left devastated.

SADs is a heart condition that kills 12 young people a week in the UK, aged 1435, many of them while engaged in sporting activities. It is the same condition that almost claimed the life of Tottenham Hotspur footballer Fabrice Muamba; he collapsed on the pitch during a televised game. He survived and is now recovering, with a pacemaker fitted to regulate his heart.

Sue Dewhirst, Matthews mother, has sadly become something of an expert in the condition. We now know that Matthew was displaying many of the typical symptons of a cardiac condition. He underwent ECGs and wore a heart monitor for periods of time for analysis but because nothing showed up it was thought his heart was not responsible.
What Sue now knows is that specialist screening under the care of a cardiac expert is often required to identify, and then treat, the risk. Many of those diagnosed correctly go on to live normal lives, aided by a pacemaker.

Sue and husband Chris are now determined to do everything possible to raise awareness and funding to support the national charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), which provides support for families.

The Matthew Dewhirst Memorial Fund has been set up locally, with an aim of raising an initial 5,000 to support the CRY charity in its work. Every additional 3,500 raised will fund specialist testing for 100 young sports people in Shropshire. Ellesmere College is, understandably, leading the way, offering testing to its students. The college has also fitted a third defibrillator on its premises.

Matthew himself has paid a crucial role in research into the condition. Says Sue: Matthew loved working with other young people. He gave up his own time to mentor fellow musicians, to help struggling pupils with classwork, and worked with foreign exchange students. Iknow he would have wanted to donate his organs to help other young people to live but, because of the circumstances of his death, this wasnt possible.
Instead we have donated his heart tothe specialist cardiologists who are investigating this condition; hopefully one day he will have played a part in saving lives.

If your sports club or organisation would like to find out more about the testing opportunities for young players please email

Fundraising for Matthew

Matthew Dewhirst threw himself into life in north Shropshire. He played rugby for Whitchurch RFC to a high standard, though had recently decided to concentrate instead on a new ambition: to become an Olympic weightlifter. He was a student at Ellesmere College, where he was a chapel scholar and talented musician, playing five instruments to Grade 7 level, and a popular sportsman. His family home was in Oswestry. He was the only son of Sue and Chris, a much loved addition to their lives (and hard fought atthat; he arrived thanks to their ninth attempt at IVF). Sue, an architectural designer, is heavily involved in professional and charity activities in the region. Matthew also had a Saturday job at Ellesmere
Boathouse caf.

His death touched the entire community, his funeral at Ellesmere College Chapel at the beginning of August was packed to the rafters. Among those who attended was rugby legend Bill Beaumont, an old boy of Ellesmere College and RFU chairman.Matthews family and friends wanted to domore to celebrate Matthews life and kick start fundraising for the new Matthew Dewhirst Memorial Fund.

In September they joined together to organise a sponsored rowing event on the mere at Ellesmere, outside the Boathouse. The event, pictured above, raised more than 3,000, with plans to make it an annual event.

In November the Forward Ladies networking organisation held a fundraising event at Hawkstone Parkand in February next year a fundraising dining event is being planned in Wem.

If you want to help, email Sue at

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