Parents of an epileptic Northumberland man who died in his sleep have visited 10 Downing Street for the launch of a fundraising drive which could save lives.
Gary Lathan, 21, from Prudhoe, died at his home after finishing work at the town’s golf club, where he was the chef, in January 2006.
His parents have now attended Number 10, on the invitation of the Prime Minister’s wife, Samantha Cameron, for the launch of an appeal to raise funds for research into a device that could have saved Garry’s life.
They are also to host events to mark what would have been his 30th birthday, to raise money for the charity behind the appeal.
Garry, a Newcastle United fan, died after finishing a night’s work. His death was later found to be the result of Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP), which makes up about 500 of the 1,150 plus lives lost in the UK every year from epilepsy.
Garry’s parents Lorraine and David Lathan, who still live in Prudhoe, have been working with epilepsy charity SUDEP Action to raise awareness and support research activities.
They were recently invited by Mrs Cameron to the reception she hosted at Downing Street for the charity, to launch its appeal to raise funds for research into a new sleep monitoring device that could help prevent SUDEP.
The miniature, wireless device will be used to alert carers to dangerous apnoeas, suspension of external breathing that can cause sudden death.
The reception brought together SUDEP experts, policy makers and families bereaved by epilepsy. Mrs Cameron, who wanted to help the charity after son Ivan died in 2009 having suffered from a severe form of epilepsy in addition to cerebral palsy, met supporters and staff.
The Lathans’ MP Guy Opperman, a fellow supporter of the charity, arranged a tour of the House of Commons for Lorraine and David before they headed to Downing Street.
David, who works in manufacturing at SCA in Prudhoe, said: “We are very grateful to Mrs Cameron for generously hosting us and helping to raise awareness of this issue. Apnoea is a leading contender as a cause of SUDEP. When our son died, we could not imagine how life could carry on without him.
“Life is never the same after you lose a child. We still grieve but we are also proud to be involved with SUDEP Action to help prevent unnecessary epilepsy deaths.
“We need at least £165,000 to test this device on epilepsy sufferers as the next step towards a system that may be highly reliable for preventing SUDEP.”
To mark what would have been their son’s 30th birthday, David and Lorraine, with support from family and Garry’s friends, are hosting a SUDEP fundraising day on August 2.
There will be a fancy dress themed five-a-side football tournament at Prudhoe High School during the day, followed by a presentation evening, disco, raffle and quiz at Prudhoe Golf Club.
David’s colleagues at SCA are donating hundreds of pounds of tissue products for the fundraiser and entering a five-a-side team.
Richard Sutcliffe, mill manager at SCA, said: “David has been with us for many years. He’s a highly regarded member of our production team and his family are very much a part of the local community. When we heard about the fundraiser in Garry’s memory we wanted to support the event and the important work of SUDEP.”
For more information or to enter the fancy dress five-a-side or donate raffle prizes, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone David or Lorraine on 01661 836933 or 07717220712.