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Brave sister hikes the Wales coastal path for the love of her younger brother POB

Would you give up your job and move back home from Australia and hike the Wales coastal path for nearly 3 months? Meet Laura O’Brien who is 27 and from Anglesey, she gave up her job and home in Australia to come and do just that. Laura is hiking the Wales coastal path to raise money for a local charity, Welsh Hearts, Calonnau Cymru in aid of her younger brother who sadly passed away unexpectedly in August 2014.

Laura started her hike on the 13th of August which was the one year anniversary of when her younger brother Patrick O’Brien passed away. Patrick was just 22 and known as POB by many of his friends, he was young, fit, healthy and rarely ill. It was a complete shock to the family that Patrick passed away so unexpectedly and to this day they still do not know the cause of death. 

Patrick was a mechanic at Pentraeth automotive and absolutely car mad from a very young age, he even had his own garage/workshop at home which he built with his father Mike. Laura was working in Western Australia in a remote location when she received the call from her mother with the shocking news that Patrick had passed away. Laura had a four hour drive to a small airport, a two hour flight to get to an international airport, then a 24 hour flight to the UK and a two hour drive to get back home to Wales. Laura talks of her brother fondly and said:

“Patrick was a really good sweet man, very close to all his family, so loving and caring. He had so many friends from so many different backgrounds and always went out of his way to help others. The number of people that showed up to his funeral shows just how loved he was.”

Laura will be following the Wales coastal path from Chester to Chepstow. The Wales coastal path opened in 2012 and is around 870 miles long. Laura will be joined by friends and family along the way to keep her company.

Laura spent a few months training but even that was not enough to prepare her for the first few days. Laura is carrying a 20kg backpack which is filled with all the necessities, tent, sleeping bag, stove, change of clothes, first aid and rain gear. Laura said:

“Initially the weight of the pack was causing me a lot of pain and discomfort in my back, shoulders and hips but I have now toughened up and no longer need pain killers to get me through the day. My feet are permanently blistered, calloused and ache most of the day, as do my knees and hips but the sunny days and incredible views make the pain worth it."

The hike will take Laura approximately ten weeks and she has a massive fundraising target of £5000.

It is sad to hear about cases of young healthy people losing their lives so unexpectedly. It is estimated that in the UK alone around 12 young people die each week suddenly from an undiagnosed heart condition. Young people who are fit and healthy and who exercise regularly are more likely to be at risk of sudden death if they have an undiagnosed problem with their heart which is not being managed.

 

Laura chose to fundraise for Welsh Hearts because they are fighting to save young lives here in Wales and to stop other families going through the heartache of losing a loved one too soon. Welsh Hearts are offering heart screening sessions next year to pick up undetected heart conditions in young people who appear healthy.

The screening sessions will be free and offered to those aged between 14-35 years old at venues across Wales.

The charity are working alongside Cardiologists to offer an electrocardiogram (ECG), which records the electrical impulses produced by the heart's rhythm. If any anomalies are recorded, a further more detailed test called an echocardiogram, or ultrasound scan of the heart will be carried out.

 

Sharon Owen, Welsh Hearts Charity Director explains more about the screening sessions:

 

“The screening sessions give people instant results on the day and there are staff on site to support people in ca​​​​ses where abnormalities are detected.  More and more people are being found to have a hole in their heart but the conditions that the Cardiologist look for are the ones which can lead to sudden death and that’s what we need to prevent. Heart Screenings take 10 to 15 minutes for the ECG but will take longer if an echocardiogram is required.”

 

Laura added:

 

“I was so pleased to hear about the free heart screening sessions and it brings some comfort to know that young people the same age as my brother could have their life saved by attending and having their heart checked out. Even though we do not know why Patrick lost his life, I want to raise as much money as I can on this hike to help the charity reach other young people who could be at risk of losing their lives suddenly.”

 

If you would like to support Laura and sponsor her please visit https://www.justgiving.com/fortheloveofpob/