Cause of sailor's death revealed

Jay Wilkie’s mother Karen Bailey feels as if a great weight has been taken off her shoulders after finding out the cause of her son’s death.
Jay Wilkie’s mother Karen Bailey feels as if a great weight has been taken off her shoulders after finding out the cause of her son’s death. Scottie Simmonds

A GENETIC heart disorder caused the death of former Bundaberg man Able Seaman Jay Wilkie.

AB Wilkie was found dead in his cabin on the HMAS Launceston while it was in Darwin on September 14.

AB Wilkie's mother Karen Bailey said the family was relieved to find out her son's death had been caused by cardiac hypertrophy, which is an enlarged heart.

“It was a great relief for me to have found out a cause of death because we need not go on thinking about what it could have been,” she said.

“It was like a load was lifted from my shoulders.”

Ms Bailey said the family had been slowly coming to terms with the tragedy.

“It was a shocking loss to all of us, especially to Keira, because it was her older brother and he was everything to her,” she said.

“You don't realise how important people are until they are gone.”

Recovery from the devastating loss has been difficult for the family, especially Ms Bailey who spent a few weeks in mental health care at Belmont Private Hospital.

“Until you go through it you don't understand how hard it is to cope with the loss of a child,” she said.

Ms Bailey, who works in the mental health industry, said a stigma was often associated with mental illness.

“The public don't understand that mental health is not just violent offenders,” she said.

“There are illnesses like post traumatic stress disorder or grief.

“Losing a loved one can cause mental health issues because your whole world can be torn apart overnight.”

Cardiologist Andrea Conradie from Bundaberg Cardiology said cardiac hypertrophy was a genetic condition which was difficult to diagnose.

Dr Conradie said the hypertrophic cardiomyopathy's symptoms include fainting spells and fatal arrhythmia.

“It is difficult to diagnose because it often does not display any symptoms and people only test for it if there is a known history in the family.

“The moment you find out a family member has it, it is best to test the entire family to see if they are at risk.”

Dr Conradie said because it was difficult to diagnose, the condition was often fatal in young people, especially athletes.

“It is one of the more common reasons for young people to die of heart failure,” Dr Conradie said.

Dr Conradie said it was possible for people to be unaware they were living with the disease.



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