Mountain biker Patrick Avery was just 21 when he died as a result of an undetected heart condition. Seven years later his mum is hopping on her bike to bring awareness to the condition.
Today Maryann Avery is starting a 30-day, 3000km cycle from Cape Reinga to Bluff as part of Tour Aotearoa.
Avery is cycling to raise awareness of and money for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a condition which claimed the life of her son at the end of 2012.
At the time of his death Patrick was described as one of the country's most talented and gifted riders. He had been a Waiariki Academy of Sport athlete, was an XC MTB athlete, a welding and fabrication student, winner/podium NZ XC MTB U17, NZ MTB Cup winner 2010 and had been part of the NZ MTB Team.
Patrick was nearing the end of a 15-minute sprint race at the Eastgate Industrial Park in Rotorua on December 4, 2012 when he fell from his bike.
An off duty fireman and members of the public performed CPR but he died later that night in the hospital. A post-mortem revealed his cause of death as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy - a common cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes.
Patrick, a national cycling representative, was well-known within the Rotorua community and close to 1000 people attended his funeral.
"Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is often undetected," Avery said. "And even worse is that hardly anybody knows the condition exists.
"The best description I can give is of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is that the heart muscle grows bigger on one side than the other which results in the prevention of oxygenated blood being pumped out through the aorta."
The Rotorua mum said she was looking forward to everything about the adventure although admitted her sole concern was numbness of her nether regions.
"We're on the bike, on average, seven hours a day ... I'm hoping all things go well," she said.
"I'm looking forward to meeting as many of the other 1299 riders [they cap it at 1300] who are taking part in the cycle, learning their stories and the reason they are biking 3000km.
"But more than anything, my wish is to raise awareness. The more people that know, the more likely someone will think twice about something abnormal, go to a doctor, and push to get the right tests done."
On her Givealittle fundraising page https://givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/give-a-little-heart-to-save-a-life Avery wrote hypertrophic cardiomyopathy was liveable when detected and managed and said her son did not have to die.
Avery has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy printed on almost every garment she will wear on her cycle – a cycle she has 30 days to complete.
The Tour Aotearoa event is organised once every two years with the 2020 cycle starting in waves of 100 people each day from February 17 to March 8.
All money raised will go to the New Zealand Heart Foundation.
Following a 2013 inquest into Patrick's death his older brother Clinton, a professional cyclist based in Europe, said he believed cyclists should have to undergo cardiac testing before they were given a Bike NZ licence to compete.
"I do think talking to my team doctors and cardiologists ... that they would have definitely picked up what Patrick had, even in the early stages."
At the time of the inquest, their sister Monique said Patrick had more skill than her and Clinton put together and could have been the best of them all if he had trained as hard as they did.
She said in a race Patrick would "smash" everyone for the first couple of minutes then would often "just hit a wall".
"Sometimes he would have to stop and catch his breath."
Monique described her mother as incredible.
"She's absolutely my inspiration and I'm proud of her every day.
"We did two events together last year [the Whaka 100 and the K2] and it was cool to be doing both with my mum. We both learned a lot.
"I learned about getting ready for, and taking part, in an event for fun and Mum learned about nutrition as she wasn't as prepared as she could have been in one of the events."
Monique said she was looking forward to following her mother on Tour Aotearoa.
In 2013 the Patrick Avery Award was created. The award was handmade by Patrick's father Murray Avery from serpentine and recycled rimu. The award is given to most improved riders.
About hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Affects one in 200 people and many with the condition have no symptoms.
- Can lead to heart failure and heart arrhythmias or cardiac arrest.
- Characterised by heart cells forming uneven layers causing the heart to thicken and become stiff, resulting in the heart not pumping properly.
- Also characterised by a smaller left ventricle.
- Symptoms include breathlessness, chest pain, rapid or irregular heartbeats (palpitations) and light-headedness or fainting.