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Tenby teen encourages others after shock heart diagnosis

Frank was due to play a rugby match the day he got his diagnosis Credit: Frank Arentz / family photo

A 16 year old boy from Tenby has spoken out about his potentially life-threatening heart condition, in the hope it will encourage others to get tested.

Frank Arentz is a promising rugby player, footballer and triathlete, but earlier this year after attending a charity heart screening, he discovered he had a form of heart disease called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM).

It means that the muscle of the heart wall becomes thickened, making it harder to pump blood.

Doctors told him he could die if his heart rate rises above 180 beats per minute, and that he should give up rugby, and other high intensity sports.

It was a huge shock when they first told me because my whole life revolved around sports and I didn't exactly know what I was going to do.

I was nervous, didn't fully understand it as well so it was definitely worth understanding what I had and then trying to find the positives.

As a teenager I don't really want to have something so I didn't look at it on the internet or anything I just kept it at a low level and then when I found out I had it it was a pretty big shock.

– Frank Arentz
Dean Mason was just 26 when he died on holiday in 2006 Credit: Family photo / Cardiac Risk in the Young (C-R-Y)

Figures from the charity CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young), suggest 12 people under the age of 35 lose their lives to sudden cardiac death in the UK every week.

Dean Mason was one of them. He was just 26 when he died on a family holiday in 2006.

He had no symptoms before his death but was later found to have an undiagnosed heart condition.

His family have been working with CRY and fundraising ever since to help pay for the screening equipment.

We set up a ring-fenced fund for my brother so what we've done through various events, the whole family has got involved, we've just raised as much funds as we can to set up screening days in the local school in Whitland to screen as many people as possible.

Also through that fund we've managed to fund a whole screening unit for CRY so they've actually got a van full of equipment funded by us which has enabled a much wider range of screening to be taken out across Wales.

I'd like to think he (Dean) would be very proud of his whole family, his wife, our parents, aunties, uncles everybody we've all worked quite hard on this so I think he'd be very proud of everybody

– Dan Mason, brother
Frank is now pursuing other interests like photography Credit: family photo

Since his diagnosis, Frank has been determined to put a positive spin on things, taking up photography, golf and guitar.

This week he met Dean's family and his brother Dan to talk about the potentially life-saving screenings.

Now they're hoping to spread the message together.

You've got to think of how important it is, it's so important to get screened.

It changes your life, but not for the worse. I never would have tried the things I've tried if it wasn't for the screening, it's not the end of the world if you can't do intense sports there's so many other things.

It's better to live to 80 than to live to 16 there's a big difference there

– Frank Arentz

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