Rugby teams from across Swansea Bay have been tackling the challenge of Cardiac Care by participating in the annual Decky Memorial Touch Rugby Tournament.
Now in its fifth year (although there was no tournament last year due to the pandemic) the annual tournament has raised thousands of pounds to increase awareness and improve treatment of Inherited Cardiac Conditions in both Swansea Bay and Hywel Dda Health boards.
Richard Thomas, known as Decky, was a keen rugby player who lived in Loughor, but was from Gorseinon. He was just 29 when he died in 2017 of a genetic heart condition. Cllr Andrew Stevens organised the tournament in memory of his friend with an initial target of £2,000.
The first tournament and accompanying fundraising efforts in August 2017 smashed the initial target and went on to raise over £10,000.
To date the Inherited Cardiac Conditions (Decky) Fund has raised over £23,000 which is being put to good use across South West Wales. The fund is one of 265 charitable funds supported by Swansea Bay Health Charity.
This year’s Decky Memorial Touch Rugby Tournament was won by Old Dogs and Young Foxes (pictured above), who have been competing in the tournament since they first signed up as an Under 15s team in 2017.
Cllr Stevens says, “This year we really wanted to raise £2,000 to take us over the £20,000 mark. We’re well over that now.
“Decky played rugby with many of us, and we went on many rugby trips over the years.
“The first tournament took place in the August after he died, and after that we decided to make it an annual event. The amount of people turning up to support the event has been incredible, and as long as people keep coming, I will keep organising.
“It’s been an opportunity for us to keep Decky’s memory alive and shine a light on the importance of genetic screening.
Obviously, we wish that circumstances were different but we really hope that we can help others. I know it can be difficult having the memories brought up year on year, but their support keeps us going. I hope what we’ve achieved has helped everyone cope knowing Decky has left a legacy of wonderful memories.”
Louise Norgrove, a cardiogenetic specialist nurse at Morriston Hospital, said, “Following on from such a tragedy the legacy Decky has left behind is incredible. It just doesn’t stop, year after year, people keep coming out to support.”
“The fundraising itself is amazing, but the work done by Andrew and Decky’s family to raise awareness of inherited heart conditions is vital. Their efforts have really helped the new ICC service secure substantive funding from the Health commissioners who are interested in developing similar models across Wales.
“Due to their fundraising efforts we were able to fund and deliver a 2019 Inherited Cardiac Conditions Conference in Swansea, the first of its kind in Wales. This attracted doctors and specialists from all over the Wales which help raise professional awareness around these conditions as well as reinforcing the importance of clinical and genetic screening which can potentially save lives.
“The conference helped raise the profile of this new service which as a result increased referral rates. Hosting a designated inherited cardiac conditions conference in South West Wales just wouldn’t have been possible without the Decky Fund.”
Next year’s Decky Memorial Tournament will take place on the 28th August 2022.