Hornchurch parents’ warning after preventable death of daughter

RIANNA Wingett died suddenly last November during a cross-country race at Abbs Cross School in Hornchurch.

She was ostensibly an extremely fit and healthy 11-year-old, excelling in trampolining badminton, horse-riding and ballet.

But lying beneath was a deadly inherited condition called familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) – a largely unknown but relatively common disease which causes sky-high cholesterol.

Rianna died where she fell - her arteries clogged to the size of a pinhole.

Worryingly, FH occurs in an estimated 1 in 500 people – most of whom are unaware they carry the terrible health time-bomb.

This week her family, from Abbs Cross Lane, Hornchurch, have come forward to encourage awareness among potential sufferers and GPs alike.

Rianna’s mum Amanda, 44, said: “We just thought it was one of the stories you hear about a young fit person dying while jogging. But it was only afterwards we realised the truth.”

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“You would think if her arteries were so clogged she would have trouble breathing, but when we went on family bike rides she would be the one in front trying to hurry us up.”

Doctors initially thought the youngster had died from an undetected heart condition, but FH was discovered after the family insisted on a postmortem. Her cholesterol levels were 20-30 - those with 7.5 are considered at high risk of heart attack and automatically put on medication.

Amanda, who had been diagnosed with FH at 18, had taken Rianna to a local doctor months before, concerned with lumps on her knuckles – a physical sign of the disease.

Tragically the GP did not realise the significance.

Dr Jonathan Morell, a Hastings GP working on behalf of cholesterol charity Heart UK, said: “It’s important not to blame the GP, 99 per-cent of doctors wouldn’t have picked up on the signs – but that’s what we are trying to address.”

Had a screening been carried out – as recommend in health guidelines introduced in 2008 - Rianna would have been saved.

Practices in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have already started making screening for the condition a priority, but Dr Morrell said GPs in England are lagging behind.

This is despite a report published last week showing that an estimated 100,000 people are ignorantly living with the condition.

Amanda pleaded: “I know it’s sometimes hard to know your family history, but I urge anyone who suspects they have FH to go get tested. And any parent with FH must get their children tested as soon as possible.”

Physical manifestations include fatty deposits on the knuckles and the Achilles tendon - although around 70 per-cent of sufferers will not show any outward signs.

Those with FH can be successfully treated.

For more information on testing go to: www.heartuk.org.uk or call: 0845 450 5988.