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Ria raises SUDEP awareness

Ria Garland loved dancing and parties but she was the one person missing from a gala music concert organised to mark what would have been her 30th birthday.

More than 250 people enjoyed the show at the Haselmere Hall, which featured street dancers, a rock band, a female rock choir, pole dancers and a comic singer.

The “Concert for Ria” was organised by Michelle James, who wanted to mark the date her friend would have turned 30.  Ria’s mother Annie said: “It was the perfect way to celebrate Ria’s birthday. Every year her friends would mark the date by coming to our house, so this time they wanted to do something special.
“It was a fantastic evening – we all enjoyed ourselves. The wide variety of music meant there was something for everyone.
“Ria would’ve loved it – she liked dancing and was full of life – but it did feel like there was someone missing.”

The concert raised almost £3,000 for Epilepsy Bereaved, which will use the money to fund research into Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy.
EB trustee Roger Scrivens, whose daughter Becky died aged 11, told the audience how the charity is the only one in the UK dedicated to the prevention of SUDEP.

Ria had just celebrated her 21st birthday when she had a fatal seizure at her friend’s house on November 9, 2003.  “She had only had about 12 seizures, so this was such a shock,” said Annie, who lives with husband Chris, from Haselmere. “I can remember going down the stairs and she was on her mobile and I said: ‘Bye then love.’ She said: ‘Bye Mum – see you tomorrow. Love you.’ That was the last time I saw her alive.  “Her death was so unexpected. We didn’t know about SUDEP or that epilepsy can kill. It’s really difficult to get people to talk about it. Fund raising is my distraction therapy. It helps the charity and it helps me to do something and work towards a goal.”

Annie says the birth of Brooke, her son Sam’s daughter, now aged one, has brought a new lease of life to the family.
“Having someone to love again, has meant the world to us,” she said.