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'He went to work and never came home' - widow shares grief at losing husband to sudden death syndrome on motorway

PUBLISHED: 17:23 16 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:51 17 August 2019

Sue Hales lost her husband Philip to sudden death syndrome last year. Pictured, Mrs Hales with a photo from their first date in 1980. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Sue Hales lost her husband Philip to sudden death syndrome last year. Pictured, Mrs Hales with a photo from their first date in 1980. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

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The widow of an "amazing" man who died on a motorway the day after celebrating their 36th wedding anniversary has shared her pain at the "horrific" loss.

Sue Hales lost her husband Philip to sudden death syndrome last year. Picture: Ella WilkinsonSue Hales lost her husband Philip to sudden death syndrome last year. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Philip Hales, 57, was on his way to his home in Spixworth, near Norwich, after a work trip when a fault in his heartbeat led to a cardiac arrest on the M11, near Harlow.

The father-of-three lost his life in the crash which followed.

His widow, Sue Hales, has now spoken of their family's shock at his death last year, just a day after the couple marked 36 years of marriage.

"He went to work one day and just didn't come home," she said.

Sue Hales lost her husband Philip to sudden death syndrome last year. Pictured, Mrs Hales with a recent photo of the couple. Picture: Ella WilkinsonSue Hales lost her husband Philip to sudden death syndrome last year. Pictured, Mrs Hales with a recent photo of the couple. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

"It was completely out of the blue. I had to go to Harlow the next day to identify his body.

"As he'd been involved in a road collision, the Home Office requested a post-mortem examination.

"It was pretty horrific and it was months before we could have a funeral. It was a horrible time."

Mrs Hales, 56, added: "The coroner's report said he had arrhythmia, which is known as sudden death syndrome.

A collection of some of Philip's things which Sue has kept including his wedding ring and memory bears. Picture: Ella WilkinsonA collection of some of Philip's things which Sue has kept including his wedding ring and memory bears. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

"Your heart stops and you have something like 90 seconds to live.

"CPR won't help, you have to have an electric shock."

She added: "The sad thing was that it was really difficult [to deal] with how he died. If he had died from a road traffic collision, police would offer you a family liaison officer."

Family liaison officers act as a link between a deceased person's family and the team of police officers looking into their death.

Sue Hales and her family held a fundraiser for Sprowston Cricket Club in memory of Phil Hales. Photo: Courtesy of Sue Hales/James RouseSue Hales and her family held a fundraiser for Sprowston Cricket Club in memory of Phil Hales. Photo: Courtesy of Sue Hales/James Rouse

And Mrs Hales said as there was no investigation into her husband's death, which took place on October 31, 2018, they did not know where to turn for support.

"He died in a road traffic accident but not as a result of a road traffic accident," she said.

"It would almost have been better if he had done."

Mrs Hales, who met her husband on a blind date aged 16, described him as "a wonderful, amazing man, loved by all".

Sue Hales and her family held a fundraiser for Sprowston Cricket Club in memory of Phil Hales. Photo: Courtesy of Sue Hales/James RouseSue Hales and her family held a fundraiser for Sprowston Cricket Club in memory of Phil Hales. Photo: Courtesy of Sue Hales/James Rouse

She said: "He really did light up a room as he walked in. He was loving, caring and hardworking and his family was everything.

"My love for Philip has continued to grow. I was the luckiest person that he chose me to share his life with."

Mr Hales, who worked for the generator supplier Aggreko, had more than 400 people attend his funeral at St Mary and St Margaret Church, in Sprowston, which saw his family, including wife and children, Tim, 34, Sam, 32, and Amelia, 29, raise money for the East Anglian Air Ambulance and the British Heart Foundation in his memory.

His son Sam also plans to wear his father's wedding ring after marrying his fiancée next week.

And the family has also raised £8,500 for Sprowston Cricket Club.

"We want to get it up to £10,000," said Mrs Hales.

"Aggreko offered to help our family raise funds for our chosen charity, and there was never any doubt that it was going to be for the local cricket club that my husband and two sons spent most of their youth playing at."

The family spent three months planning the event, which was held on Friday, July 5, at Sprowston Cricket Club, and saw more than 350 people attend for the 20/20 match, hog roast, barbecue, raffle, and auctions.

"The money will secure training for next year," Mrs Hales said.

But the cricket fan's loss has also left a sadder legacy, with his "devastated" children undergoing medical testing to find out if they are also at risk of the condition.

"It has left us not knowing if it was something the children could have," Mrs Hales added.

"Our family are devastated. They've undergone testing and we hope its not hereditary.

"We've had a little while to come to terms with it, you learn to live in a different way."

A spokesperson from charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) said: "Every week 12 people in the UK aged 35 and under die from an undiagnosed heart condition. The first sign of anything being wrong can be the last sign, which is why cardiac screening is so important, especially following the sudden death of a relative.

"We understand it is a devastating time, when everyone will be in a state of shock.

"But it is vital all immediate relatives are screened to ascertain if they may be living with the same hereditary condition and to prevent another tragedy.

"For anyone struggling with their grief at any stage, help is always available via our bereavement support network."

- For information and support visit the CRY website.

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