A 'tough' Father's Day for Northamptonshire woman who lost dad to cardiac arrest months after her own

"I was very lucky to make it really but it feels like someone reached into my life and took three weeks."

By Jack Duggan
Monday, 22nd June 2020, 2:34 pm

Father's Day will be completely different for Lisa Holder from Northamptonshire this year.

Her dad, Graeme Mauchel, was found dead in his home in December after suffering a cardiac arrest - a month before his 70th birthday.

He was yet to be diagnosed but Lisa and her sister have tested positive for a rare hereditary heart condition called Brugada syndrome.

Lisa Holder (left) with her father Graeme Mauchel and sister Anna. Photo courtesy of the British Heart Foundation

The diagnoses came from when Lisa, 43, from Higham Ferrers, also suffered a cardiac arrest while driving in August before spending a week in a coma.

"My sister is going to come to mine to have dinner together so we're together as it's the first Father's Day without Dad as they're always harder," she told the Chronicle & Echo on Friday.

"We've done Christmas and his birthday, which is the same day as my daughter's so that was quite bittersweet, but Sunday will be tough for us."

Lisa was driving on a quiet road near Guildford, Surrey, on her way to her dad's home when she slumped over the wheel.

Lisa Holder in hospital after her cardiac arrest. Photo courtesy of the British Heart Foundation

Thankfully bystanders saw her and called 999. An ambulance arrived in four minutes and she was rushed to Ashford Hospital which has a specialist heart centre.

Despite going into cardiac arrest twice on the way to the hospital, Lisa made it there and was put into an induced coma but doctors were unsure whether how much damage would be done.

A week later she woke up with no memory of a week before the incident, relying on the police and ambulance reports to fill in the gaps.

"I was very lucky to make it really but it feels like someone reached into my life and took three weeks," she said.

It was in the hospital where Lisa was diagnosed with Brugada syndrome - a rare condition that affects the electrical activity of the heart which can lead to abnormal heart rhythms and cardiac arrests.

The condition does not show up on normal tests like an electrocardiogram (ECG) and the doctor has to look for abnormalities which may be less than obvious.

As it is inherited, Lisa's family were tested for it with her sister, Anna, coming back as positive but her daughter and brother were negative - her son is yet to be tested due a different heart condition.

Graeme was due to be tested but in December, after a few days of not hearing from him, Anna, who lives nearby, went to his house but there was no answer.

"Anna initially called her husband to go in but I said 'no, call the police,' as I think I knew deep down as there was always a fear of not being there," Lisa said.

"He was only 69 but he was quite wobbly on his feet sometimes."

The police were called and they broke in to find Graeme's body - he was thought to have died a few days earlier after suffering a cardiac arrest.

"It broke our hearts, to be honest. He was such an easy-going man. Never fussed or argued," she said.

“My sister used to help him with his cleaning and she would phone to say: ‘I don’t know what to do with Dad! I’m trying to hoover and he’s sliding up and down the hall in his socks!'"

Before the coronavirus pandemic struck, Lisa was planning on holding a sponsored CPR-learning party with her friends and family to raise money for the British Heart Foundation.

While that plan is on the back-burner for now, she hopes to raise more awareness of Brugada syndrome and the importance of CPR by sharing her story.

She said doctors have had to search online for information about the condition when her family members have asked for a test, proving how uncommon it is.

But the tests her family have done have given doctors vital information as more research is done into the condition to hopefully help more people.

"We're just trying to do whatever we can out of a horrible situation, we need to find something to make it less devastating," she said.

The British Heart Foundation funds life-saving research into heart and circulatory conditions, including heart diseases, stroke and vascular dementia, along with risk factors including high blood pressure and diabetes.

The charity has also launched an online coronavirus support hub to provide information for people living with heart and circulatory diseases in these difficult times. To find out more, visit www.bhf.org.uk.