Best friends' 23-mile mission to highlight heart issues in the young
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
A Suffolk footballer whose career was cut short due to a heart diagnosis is teaming up with his best friend and family to walk 23 miles in one day.
Matthew Mackenzie and George McCallum are determined to complete the walk from Shotley Gate to Landguard Point in aid of a young people’s heart charity.
This paper first spoke to Felixstowe resident Matthew in 2018, after he had received a ‘devastating’ diagnosis of cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle which makes it harder for the heart to pump blood around the body, and can lead to heart failure.
This diagnosis came as a real shock to Matthew, who was 26, healthy and a keen footballer.
“I was playing football three or four times a week, at quite a decent standard for local league,” explains Matthew, who played for Woodbridge Town.
However, his diagnosis meant that he had to give up the sport immediately.
“There was no gradual stop. It was a case of, you have to stop right now,” he said.
Just over three years later, Matthew now coaches the under-18s at Woodbridge Town.
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“I try to stay involved in football as much as I can,” he said.
“The opportunity came up to raise some money for CRY charity [Cardiac Risk in the Young], which works very hard to help young people stay away from fatal heart attacks.
“I see myself as very lucky because I was in a position to be diagnosed while I was playing and doing physical exercise, but there are a lot of people who aren’t, and obviously find out the tough way.”
Matthew had fainted twice before being sent to hospital to undergo tests, which showed he had a mild form of cardiomyopathy.
“What CRY do is help with screening in young people. They do the ECGs and use heart monitors before anything is diagnosed, before there are symptoms, just to make sure that people are healthy,” he explains.
“Unless you have symptoms, you don’t normally get tested. It’s something that this charity is working hard to do, especially with young people in sport.”
Matthew will set off on his trek from Landguard to Shotley with best friend George, who he has known since the pair were “in playgroup", aged about three or four.
They will be joined by Matthew’s dad, Ian Mackenzie, brother, Daniel Mackenzie, uncle, Keith Jennings and brother-in-law, Tom Monk for the 23-mile walk on February 12.