A Northamptonshire dad-of-two and personal trainer who has an inherited heart condition has praised a team who have won a research grant, which could lead to an injectable cure in the near future.
Andy Cross, from Towcester, is living with an inherited heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
The condition makes the muscle walls of the heart become stretched and thin, resulting in the heart not being able to pump blood around the body properly.
It is believed Andy, a personal trainer, inherited DCM from his mother who lives with the same condition. His two young children Dayton, aged 13 and Erin, aged 11, now also undergo yearly echocardiograms at hospital to check for any structural changes in their heart.
The 46-year-old said: “I first knew something wasn’t right when I became unwell during cycling racing in 2016. I thought it was a chest infection, then noticed my heart felt like it was skipping a beat. When I raced, I would usually finish in the top 10, but 20 minutes in I was right at the back, feeling breathless.
“After various tests and a misdiagnosis, I was eventually diagnosed with DCM in 2018. I initially thought - that’s it, I’m done. I was told I would possibly never be able to cycle competitively again.
“What annoyed me is the fact that all my life I’ve been into sport. I was in the England squad for karate, I did some bodybuilding for a while and I went onto road cycling and racing, so fitness has always been a big part of my life. I was thinking - why me? I stopped cycling at first because I was worried about having a cardiac arrest.”
Andy also lives with Type 1 diabetes and has been further diagnosed with another heart condition called arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (ACM). He also now has a combined Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) and pacemaker to help control abnormal heart rhythms caused by his conditions.
He added: “However, I’ve never let my heart conditions stop me from achieving what I want. Under the supervision of the team at St George’s Hospital, I was able to get back into cycling again and I achieved a second category racing licence. I was also able to achieve a World Record Team Cycle Relay from John O'Groats to Land's End.
“I’ve even got a tattoo on the back of my leg that says: ‘I may have type 1 diabetes and heart disease, but they don’t have me’ and the phrase ‘no excuses’ underneath.”
Now an injectable cure for inherited heart muscle conditions - like Andy’s - could be available within a few years, after an international team of researchers were announced as the winners of the British Heart Foundation’s Big Beat Challenge.
The global award, of £30 million, is one of the largest non-commercial grants ever given and presents a “once in a generation opportunity” to provide hope for families struck by these killer diseases.
Andy continued: “This research funding gives me hope that a cure for inherited heart conditions, like the ones I live with, is on the horizon.”
Visit the CureHeart website to find out more about the research.