Uni graduate, 24, collapses and dies after running up the stairs at home

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Michael Lees-Maddock had recently graduated from the University of Liverpool before his tragic death
Michael Lees-Maddock had recently graduated from the University of Liverpool before his tragic death

A young man who had recently graduated from university died suddenly at his home from what a coroner described as 'extraordinarily bad luck'

Michael Lees-Maddock had visited his GP in September 2019 after noticing his heart occasionally skipped a beat and at times became fast. The GP carried out an electrocardiogram - commonly referred to as an ECG - which showed some abnormalities. Michael was referred to consultant cardiologist Dr Ian Schofield at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals.

Although Dr Schofield's ECG was normal he was sufficiently concerned about the initial investigations that he arranged for Michael to undergo a heart ultrasound and wear a 24-hour monitor to track his heart. This revealed that Michael, a huge Liverpool FC fan, had a condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White, reports Lancs Live.

Wolff-Parkinson-White is when a fourth, additional electrical connection develops while an individual is in their mother's womb. Although the condition is not especially rare, affecting between one and three in every 1,000 people, the risk of death is "very rare".

An inquest held on Wednesday (July 26) at Preston Coroner's Court heard from two specialists who both agreed that in patients who do not experience significant symptoms the risk of operating on an individual to remove the extra connection is greater than the risk of living with Wolff-Parkinson-White.

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Uni graduate, 24, collapses and dies after running up the stairs at homeOne of Michael's relatives with a Liverpool banner dedicated to him

The inquest heard that on the afternoon of February 1 last year Michael, 24, suddenly ran upstairs at his home in Hargreaves Avenue, telling his dad that his chest felt a bit tight. Less than two hours later Michael's dad Paul Maddock had to identify his son's body to a police officer.

Dr Schofield said that in those with Wolff-Parkinson-White there is around one in 10,000 will die from the condition.

"It was decided that as Michael wasn't experiencing any symptoms he was simply allowed to be observed but if he did feel symptoms that were consistent with a rhythm change we would re-assess," Dr Schofield said.

Michael, who attended Runshaw College in Leyland and later studied pharmacology at the University of Liverpool, underwent a post mortem CT scan after his death which showed no obvious cause of death. His blood only contained therapeutic traces of paracetamol with Dr Schofield putting forward a cause of Wolff-Parkinson-White.

Michael, who was born in Preston, was also seen by consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist Dr David Fox who specialises in the management and treatment of Atrial Fibrillation and other heart rhythm disorders. Dr Fox said that as Michael was "essentially free of symptoms" he was classed as low risk. He added that after discussing possible treatments with him Michael was adamant he didn't want to undergo an operation to remove, or 'burn', the extra electrical connection.

"When a patient comes into theatre and you start putting tubes in their leg and heart there is a risk," Dr Fox said. "Michael said he didn't want any treatment and I don't think that was a wrong decision. Sometimes things can go wrong and you have to balance what you should do for a patient based on the risk."

At the inquest Michael's dad Paul, who was accompanied by Michael's mum and brother, said: "I am grateful for what was done. It's just really really unfortunate and sad for us that he was the one in 10,000."

Dr Fox responded: "It's a terrible loss of life. And a devastating tragedy."

Lancashire's Senior Coroner Dr James Adeley agreed and described Michael's death as "extraordinarily bad luck and a great tragedy". He returned a conclusion of natural causes and said: "As the experts have said, it was a very reasonable decision not to interfere, and Michael was low risk. No one is to blame and there is nothing that could have been done to prevent Michael's very sad death."

Amy Fenton

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