The Brinscall girl who 'died' 50 times

PUBLISHED: 12:41 08 April 2013 | UPDATED: 15:50 10 April 2013

Fabrice Muamba and Amy at a charity dinner

Fabrice Muamba and Amy at a charity dinner

A young girl's blackouts puzzled doctors for decades until a determined mum and team of talented medics solved the mystery. Roger Borrell reports

For a young woman who has died 50 times in her short life, Amy Lynch remains remarkably cheerful. In fact, with a little help from her mother, Lynne Lynch, the conversation regularly dissolves into gales of helpless laughter.
I suppose they would call it a coping mechanism, says Lynne, a midwife in the Blackburn area.


And between mother and daughter, they have had plenty to cope with.
When Amy was little she started to faint without warning, explains Lynne. It was something she did bang her knee or bump her arm and faint. We went to our GP, who checked her and said she was fine.


People just put it down to me being a wimp, laughs Amy. But when I was 11 I was running around the garden with my brother and suddenly I didnt feel well as if my heart was bumping around my chest.


Adds Lynne: On one of these occasions I checked her pulse. It was 240 beats a minute it should have been 70 or 80. Amy was sent to see a cardiologist but all the tests came back negative.


Over the next couple of years, Amy continued fainting every few months but several visits to doctors and another session with a cardiologist failed to find a cause. It was incredibly frustrating, almost as if people were starting to think we were making it up, says Lynne from the living room of her home in Brinscall, near Chorley.


I was told it was probably hormonal and that young girls are prone to fainting, so she would be fine. I didnt think she would be fine it was not normal.
The family Amy has a brother and sister developed a routine to cope with the fainting fits. But then Amy went from having a racing pulse to no pulse at all . It happened frequently at night when we were woken by a loud thud, says Lynne. It was the sound of Amy collapsing to the floor.


I would find her unconscious, deathly pale, very still, not breathing and I could never find her pulse. Amy often injured herself when she suddenly collapsed - a swollen lip, a bloodied nose and even a carpet burn on her face. Amy would usually be unconscious for about five minutes before suddenly inhaling and returning to normal.


Every time the paramedics arrived to find Amy in a perfectly normal state, if tired.


There was no warning before I collapsed, she says. It just felt like I was dying and it happened between 40 and 50 times. It wasnt so bad for me because I was out cold but it was terrible for my mum.


Eventually, she was given a home monitor which recorded her heartbeat down a telephone line and this led to her being diagnosed with a complaint called supra ventricular tachycardia and, at the age of 13, Amy had a heart procedure called an ablation.


Lynne and the family were elated, believing Amy was cured. It was such a relief that my beautiful daughter was fine, says her mum. Sadly, it didnt last long and after six months the faints started again.


Once again, the family learned to cope and, as she went from being a child to adulthood, Amy wanted to be a normal young women within reason. I could not prevent her from going out and I didnt want to wrap her in cotton wool, says Lynne.


But when she did go out I wondered if that would be the last time I ever saw her alive.


I had to tell her friends what to do if she had one of her episodes. They looked after her really well but Amy used to feel very embarrassed if she collapsed in the street.


Amy laughs: Passers-by and paramedics would think they had another drunk on their hands, but that wasnt the case.


By the time Amy reached 24, Lynne lived with the constant fear that any day could be her daughters last and she started trawling the internet for clues. She found the unexplained blackout clinic at Manchester Royal Infirmary. There, they met a group of people who transformed Amys life.


They eventually homed in on the fact that the collapses normally occurred when Amy experienced pain.


We all agreed that if they jabbed a cannula into Amys arm she would more than likely faint, says Lynne. You dont expect doctors to inflict pain but thats what happened. As the needle went into her arm, she fainted. Her heart stopped, her breathing ceased and her blood pressure plummeted.


When she came around she looked at me and said Mum, I did it, I did it, have they got it on the ECG? Through tears I said Yes! The relief was almost overwhelming.


Now, Amy like the former Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba has a pacemaker and the faints have ended.


I was against having a pacemaker at 24, says Amy. But you take notice when you are told that your next collapse might be your last.


The only problem I have is that the pacemaker tests itself every day at 2am so it wakes me up when it kicks in.


I cant skydive or play rugby and I have to use my mobile on my right side away from the pacemaker.


But I can drive, I have a full time job with a cosmetics company and I am planning my wedding.


Im just so grateful to everything who had helped we have met some amazingly talented doctors.


One of the funniest things happened two years ago when my 83-year-old grandfather was told he needed a pacemaker fitted.


It must have been very strange having your granddaughter sit you down explain exactly what was going to happen!

Heart of the matter

Amys sudden and unexplained cardiac arrest is shared with ex-Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba, who died on the pitch during an FA Cup tie against Spurs. His heart stopped for over 70 minutes but a specialist in the crowd helped to save him. Now, Fabrice and Amy are helping to promote the Arrhythmia Alliance Heart Charity, whic promoted awareness. They recently met at a dinner in Lancaster. Hes a lovely man and we had a good laugh comparing notes about pacemakers.


Mum Lynne adds: Based on what happened to us, I would urge anyone who has unexplained blackouts to seek medical advice and, even if all tests prove to be normal, to keep on seeking a doctor who listens carefully to the patient and the family.


The Alliance has a sister charity, STARS, which specialises in conditions like Amys. You can find out more at www.heartrhythmcharity.org.uk and www.stars.og.uk

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