‘Sitting for just 90 minutes could be fatal’

Stanley Greening relives his son’s last words over and over in his head on a daily basis, “What’s happening to me dad?” and the lack of any answer amplifies his grief and makes the pain of his loss even worse.

His son, Louis O’Neill, 24, died on June 3 on the floor of his bedroom due to a pulmonary embolism caused by Deep Vein Thrombosis. He had been furloughed in March and spent the next two months doing less and less. 

Now, his devastated parents beg the nation to back their campaign ‘Stand Up For Louis’ and move every 90 minutes.

As of August 9, approximately 9.6 million jobs have been furloughed in the UK since Covid-19 began. It’s a worryingly high number of people at home possibly sitting at home for much longer than is recommended.

Jo Jerome, the CEO of Thrombosis UK, said: “With the lockdown, there has been an increased risk of previously fit and active people becoming less mobile, oblivious to the silent risk of blood clots.

“Sitting for just 90 minutes slows the blood flow behind the legs by 50pc. The slower the flow of blood, the more risk there is of it becoming ‘sticky’ and forming dangerous clots. People don’t know this enough – but anyone can get a clot.”

According to the Office for National Statistics 46.6 per cent of people in employment worked from home in April this year. Working in our homes has added to the number of us who sit for more than four-and-a-half hours per day, which has leapt by 22.5 per cent.

Father Stanley, 56, and mother Lesley O’Neill, 60, who divorced when Louis was young, have teamed up with Thrombosis UK to warn others of the unknown symptoms of DVT and the importance of moving regularly.

Stanley, from Harlington, in Bedfordshire, said: “We had no idea what the symptoms of DVT were, if we had, maybe our son would still be here.

“We now want Louis’ death to be at least a warning to others. If we can save one person, it’d be something.”

Football fan Louis O’Neill was regularly at the gym. He’d spent his college years as a football coach student, often playing football himself. He took care of his appearance and was lean and fit.

But in March this year, like many his age, he was furloughed from his job at Starbucks, in Centre Parcs, Woburn Forest.

Stanley, who lives with his wife Claire, 41, and their three-year-old daughter, said: “I never had any concerns about Louis’ health, he was a fit lad. But after he was furloughed he did less and less. He became bored and lacked a daily routine. I’m a runner and a cyclist and I often tried to get him out with me, but he wasn’t into it. The days dragged and he’d spend most of his time in his room. But I never in my wildest dreams thought it would lead to something so serious.”

In May Louis began to complain of a pain in his leg but the family assumed it was a pulled muscle.

His mother Lesley, who is a trained Pilates teacher, and lives with her husband James, 54, in Islington, North London, remembered: “We spoke a lot about his leg over the phone. He was convinced it was a pulled muscle, and from what he was saying I guess I agreed. But not being with him, it was hard to know for sure.”

One morning at the end of May, Stanley came downstairs around 5.30am and heard Louis groaning in the toilet.

“He looked really unwell,” Stanley said. “He had diarrhoea and was very weak. I helped him back upstairs to his room and then suddenly he fainted. I quickly called NHS direct.”

But under current circumstances, NHS direct had no access to Louis’ notes and suggested it was food poisoning and to get some rest. A second phone call to a local doctor later in the day also advised rest.

By the end of May, Stanley remembers Louis looking very weak.

“One day we went for a short walk to our local allotment but I remember Louis struggling to walk due to the pain in his leg. He was limping and taking it slow. But none of us thought it was life-threatening.”

On the evening of June 2, Louis had a turn for the worst. He’d been for a shower but on the landing outside his bedroom, he suddenly collapsed. Stanley helped him to his bedroom but Louis was too weak to stand.

“I can still remember my son asking ‘what’s happening to me dad?’ before he slumped on the floor too weak to move. I quickly called NHS direct and they ordered an ambulance. And then I quickly called Lesley.”

Once the paramedics arrived they thought Louis was having a panic attack. “For a short time there was a sense of relief that it wasn’t serious,” Stanley remembers. “They tried to stabilise his breathing but then, all of a sudden his breathing changed. While I was speaking to Lesley, I heard this big thud. I went running back into the bedroom and Louis was on the floor and paramedics were giving him CPR. I watched helplessly. I could hear the paramedics shouting ‘adrenalin’ and they didn’t stop pumping his chest.”

Another three ambulances arrived as well as a helicopter.

Lesley added: “I could hear everything over the phone. I remember every second, it was the most harrowing time of my life. I was just listening unable to do a thing.”

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