It was just another Monday. Bec Barry had cooked up a stir-fry and husband Andrew played with their kids. The couple did a workout, showered and chatted before bed.
Then Bec’s world shattered.
As she talked to the loving, fit and healthy dad of two, he suddenly went silent. She looked over at him and he was standing motionless, staring blankly back at her.
Then he crumpled dead to the ground. He was 35.
‘I have to live with that for the rest of my life,’ Bec told Daily Mail Australia. ‘I literally watched him take his last breath. It was so fast… it was a matter of seconds.’
Andrew, a builder, was a victim of a condition related to Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS) which can strike down the relatively young without warning.
As Bec Barry (right) talked to loving, fit and healthy dad-of-two Andrew (left), he suddenly went silent, stood motionless, staring blankly back at her – and then fell dead to the ground
Just a few months earlier, Andrew had undergone a full physical after his brother had a health scare – and had passed with flying colours.
‘He had a Holter monitor [a wearable portable electrocardiogram], he had an ECG, he had an echocardiogram, he had everything done but an MRI,’ revealed Bec.
‘Andrew played footy, rode bikes, did all the stuff normal guys do. He had no prior symptoms.
‘And because he passed all his other testing, they said he didn’t need the MRI.’
A post mortem later revealed an MRI could have at least identified he had AVC – Arrhythmogenic Ventricular Cardiomyopathy, which causes fatty tissue to replace heart muscle.
The genetic condition causes heart ventricle walls to become thin, and disrupts vital electrical signals to the heart muscle.
It’s been linked as a potential cause for some cases of SADS which strikes down adults in their 20s and 30s without warning.
Bec Barry revealed Andrew had undergone a full, thorough, physical just a few months earlier, after his brother had a health scare, but Andrew passed with flying colours
‘They put it down to Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, but it’s because he had this undiagnosed heart condition,’ added Bec.
The only previous clue to the coming tragedy was when Andrew fainted a month earlier, and when he fell lifeless to the ground, Bec thought he had passed out again.
‘We were getting ready for bed,’ she said. ‘And basically, in that moment, that’s when my life changed forever. He was looking at me and he just collapsed.
‘He was talking to me one minute. He literally finished one sentence and asked me a question and I turned around to answer.
‘I answered it and he didn’t reply. I turned around, and he was still standing at that point. But then he started to collapse.
‘He just fell in a heap on the floor. I thought at first he fainted because he’d fainted previously.
‘But when the colour drained from his face and he stopped breathing, I knew something was very wrong. I was just shaking. I had no idea what was going on.’
The couple met 16 years ago while Bec Barry (left), now 39, was working in a bank and Andrew (right) came in for a credit card as he was heading overseas
She called a neighbour who carried out CPR while they waited for an ambulance to arrive. Bec made sure their kids Taj, 12 and Zali, 9, didn’t see the tragic scene.
MEDICS BAFFLED BY 21 YEAR OLD’S MYSTERY HEART ATTACK
Jess Allen cheated death after a heart attack at 21 put her in a coma for five days
Jess Allen cheated death when a heart attack at the age of 21 put her in a coma for five days – but she woke up in hospital thinking she’d just twisted her ankle.
The superfit rugby player from Rockhampton, Queensland, had been running water bottles for the men’s team when she suddenly collapsed on the field without warning.
Only CPR by quick-thinking bystanders saved the mum-of-one’s life.
‘It was a sound I will never forget, like a snoring sound, and I looked over and she is lying down on the ground,’ said Frenchville Pioneers coach Stephen Anderson.
‘When she was just lying there not moving my first recollection was, “Geez, her heart has stopped.”‘
Medics are still trying to find the cause of the heart attack, but she now has an implanted defibrillator and on heart medication.
She doesn’t remember anything about the day of the heart attack.
‘I thought I just did my ankle in and that I was coming out of ankle surgery; I had no idea it was my heart,’ she told the ABC.
‘I don’t have enough words to thank those who were involved in helping me.’
She now hopes to return to her normal life with a return to the playing fields.
Jess added: ‘The doctors don’t think it will happen again.’
‘I went to close all the doors down the other end of the house so that they couldn’t hear – they’re normally terrible sleepers but thankfully they slept through the whole thing,’ Bec said.
‘I didn’t want them to see him lying lifeless on the floor of our bedroom. I didn’t want them to have that last image of him.’
Paramedics worked for more than 90 minutes to try and revive Andrew after Bec begged them try everything they could do to save him.
After all hope had gone and the medics left, Bec stayed up all night, waiting to tell their children their father was gone.
‘Andrew was incredible,’ she said. ‘He was a person that you could go to and just literally tell him anything, and he would give you all of his support.
‘He was always happy. He was always making jokes. He was an amazing dad. He was very hands on.
‘He worked full time, but he would still come home and go, “Righto let’s go do something kids! We’re gonna go for a walk, go for a ride and kick the footy!”
‘And all of his friends absolutely loved him.’
The couple met 16 years ago while Bec, now 39, was working in a bank and Andrew came in for a credit card as he was heading overseas for 12 months.
But the trip ended up being cut short after just a few months so he could return to see Bec again before they settled down and started their family.
‘It’s a true love story,’ adds fashion designer Bec, from Bendigo, in Victoria.
She says telling the children their dad had died was the hardest thing she’ll ever have to do in her life.
‘They didn’t believe me at first,’ she revealed. ‘I didn’t even know how to start saying this.
‘I was still coming to terms with him leaving us and then I had to then put on my parent hat and try and keep my s*** together so I could explain it to them.
‘My son woke up first and I explained it to him and then my daughter woke up because she heard Taj crying.
‘Being a parent, you have to try and protect your kids as much as you can – but tell them as much truth as well.’
In the wake of the tragedy on September 14, 2020, Bec has started a fashion brand and named it ‘AVC The label’ after the heart condition which claimed Andrew.
A portion of profits is donated to the Heart Foundation to help research into the disease.
She is now waiting for her children to become old enough to have an MRI to see if they have inherited the condition from their father.
Andrew’s brother was also diagnosed with the condition after his heart rate suddenly jumped to over 200 beats per minute and he was rushed to hospital but survived.
He now has an implanted defibrillator to keep the condition in check.
In the wake of the tragedy, Bec Barry has now started a fashion brand and named it ‘AVC The label’ after the heart condition which claimed Andrew
Bec admitted: ‘We didn’t probably know the severity of it. This is my purpose now. I know Andrew would be really proud.
‘I have days where I’m like, “I can do this”. But then I have days where I just need him here to help me.
‘It’s an emotional roller-coaster. Sometimes I sit there and cry, sometimes I sit there and smile. But it’s something I’m very passionate about.’
Healthy young people are dying suddenly and unexpectedly from a mysterious syndrome – as doctors seek answers through a new national register
By Thomas Heaton
People aged under 40 are being urged to have their hearts checked because they may potentially be at risk of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome.
The syndrome, known as SADS, has been fatal for all kinds of people regardless of whether they maintain a fit and healthy lifestyle.
SADS is an ‘umbrella term to describe unexpected deaths in young people’, said The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, most commonly occurring in people under 40 years of age.
People aged under 40 are being urged to have their hearts checked, because they may potentially be at risk of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS) (pictured, woman experiencing chest pain while running)
The term is used when a post-mortem cannot find an obvious cause of death.
The US-based SADS Foundation has said that over half of the 4,000 annual SADS deaths of children, teens or young adults have one of the top two warning signs present.
Those signs include a family history of a SADS diagnosis or sudden unexplained death of a family member, and fainting or seizure during exercise, or when excited or startled.
Spokesperson for Melbourne’s Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute said: ‘there are approximately 750 cases per year of people aged under 50 in Victoria suddenly having their heart stop (cardiac arrest)’ (pictured, woman suffering from chest pain)
Melbourne’s Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute is developing the country’s first SADS registry.
‘There are approximately 750 cases per year of people aged under 50 in Victoria suddenly having their heart stop (cardiac arrest),’ a spokesperson said.
‘Of these, approximately 100 young people per year will have no cause found even after extensive investigations such as a full autopsy (SADS phenomenon).’
Cardiologist and researcher Dr Elizabeth Paratz said: ‘Baker’s registry was the first in the country and one of only a few in the world that combined ambulance, hospital and forensics information.’
‘(It allows you to see) people have had the cardiac arrest and no cause was found on the back end,’ Dr Paratz said.
She believes the potential lack of awareness may be due to the fact ‘a lot of it takes place outside of traditional medical settings’.
Cardiologist and researcher Dr Elizabeth Paratz (pictured) said from a public health perspective, combating SADS was ‘not as easy as everyone in Australia getting genetically screened’ as scientists were still not 100 per cent clear on ‘what genes cause this’
‘The majority of these SADS events, 90 per cent, occur outside the hospital – the person doesn’t make it – so it’s actually ambulance staff and forensics caring for the bulk of these patients,’ Dr Paratz said.
‘I think even doctors underestimate it. We only see the 10 per cent who survive and make it to hospital. We only see the tip of the iceberg ourselves.’
For family and friends of victims, SADS is a ‘very hard entity to grasp’ because it’s a ‘diagnosis of nothing’, Dr Paratz added.
Dr Paratz said that from a public health perspective, combating SADS was ‘not as easy as everyone in Australia getting genetically screened’ as scientists were still not 100 per cent clear on ‘what genes cause this’.
‘The best advice would be, if you yourself have had a first-degree relative – a parent, sibling, child – who’s had an unexplained death, it’s extremely recommended you see a cardiologist,’ she said.
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