In our regular story series Mighty Oats for Mighty People, Mornflake meets inspirational people worldwide to talk complex challenges and incredible accomplishments.
This month, we talk to Debbie Dixon. After the tragic loss of her son Aaron, to an undetected heart defect at the age of just 23, Debbie launched a memorial fund in his name and made it her mission to raise awareness and funds for the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young. Working alongside close friends, Debbie has raised over £210,000 to pay for heart screenings for young people. Taking place all over Cheshire, they’re critical for early diagnosis and prevention. In one case, even resulting in a full heart transplant for someone who had a critical defect. We’re in awe of Debbie and feel honoured to be sharing her story here.
Can you tell us a bit more about how you became involved with the charity Cardiac Risk In The Young?
Firstly, thank you so much for helping raise awareness of the charity and the work I do. I became involved in the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young when I lost my only son Aaron to an undetected heart defect. We were directed to the charity by the coroner. Upon contacting them, I was shocked to hear that at least 12 young people are losing their lives every week to an undetected heart defect, 80% with no prior symptoms.
After setting up The Aaron James Dixon Memorial Fund within the CRY charity, I started fundraising and raising awareness with the help of friends and family. To date, we have raised just over £250,000.00, all of which has been used to fund heart screenings.
How important are heart screenings?
100 young people are screened and each day costs £5,000.00. So far, Aaron’s Memorial Fund has funded 30 screening days, checking 3,057 young people. 108 of those have been referred with abnormalities. One of those referred, a young lady Charlotte, received her heart transplant early last year, it’s proof screening really does save lives.
Is there something that’s happened in the last few years that’s made you feel proud?
I am proud of my daughter Hollie, who was extremely close to her brother. Hollie was due to start university two weeks after losing Aaron but took a year out before starting her degree. She went to university and gained a 2:1, we’re all so proud of what she’s achieved during a very difficult time in our lives.
Are you often asked why you do what you do?
Always. The answer is because 12 young people are losing their lives every week, I don’t want another family to go through the heartache we face every day. And because I don’t want people to forget my precious son Aaron.
Who is your inspiration?
Saving not only Charlotte, but also 107 other young people is what inspires me to carry on with my work. I have now taken early retirement to concentrate on raising awareness and money to fund these days. I have a further four screening days booked during the remainder of this year, with lots more booked over the next couple of years.
What does a typical morning look like for you? Do you fuel up with any particular breakfast?
A typical morning for me is walking our dog Oscar. Every day is different in that some days I am working at home other days I can be out raising awareness visiting Schools etc, organising a fundraising event, meeting with other parents who have also lost a child and screening days. My days are very full on so it is so important for me to have a good breakfast which is Mornflake’s Superfast Oats and I sprinkle on top Mornflake Crispy Nutty Muesli or Mornflake Fruit, Nut and Seed Granola.
What goals do you have for the future?
My aim is for all young people to be offered a screening. The funding I have received from The JD Foundation will be go towards the screening of elite athletes with The English Institute of Sport.
To anyone thinking of setting up their own charity fund, think long and hard before doing so. It is not an easy task raising money and you do need to plan well. I am very fortunate that I have a good network of people around me who loved Aaron and want to be involved in keeping his memory alive.
Find out more about Debbie on the Cardiac Risk in the Young website.