Southampton FC legend James Beattie has become the new Patron of the leading regional cardiac charity, Heartbeat.
The former Premier League striker will use his profile to raise vital awareness of the charity, which works tirelessly to provide the best quality cardiac care by supporting the work of the Wessex Cardiac Unit based at Southampton General Hospital.
James, who scored 76 goals and made 188 appearances during his time at Southampton, was inspired to join Heartbeat after a lifelong interest in medicine and science."
He said, "As a sportsman, I have always marvelled at the human body, particularly the heart, and how an active lifestyle and healthy diet play such a pivotal role in maintaining its strength. I have the utmost respect for cardiologists, who are some of the most gifted and brilliant people on earth. So when I was approached by Heartbeat to become Patron, I said yes without any hesitation."
Aside from James' passion for health and fitness, it was a visit to Heartbeat House, the charity's 25-bedroom "home from home," that cemented his commitment to the cause.
The house is designed to support and provide respite to families of cardiac patients undergoing treatment at Southampton General Hospital, which is located just a three-minute walk away. It currently costs £87,000 to keep the facility running and relies solely on donations.
James said, "On my recent visit to Heartbeat House, I immediately felt the tremendous sense of care that the staff have for the families staying there. It is a truly emotional and worrying time for the families while their patients are being cared for at Southampton General Hospital.
"However, the staff provide comfort and reassurance at every moment. Compassion and empathy resonate throughout the house, aligning strongly with my own personal values."
Another Heartbeat-funded project that caught James' attention was the innovative 3D Heart campaign, which is revolutionising the approach of surgeons to invasive cardiac diagnostic testing.
Costing £600 per heart, surgeons can utilise specialist cardiac modelling software to easily scan the patient's heart using non-invasive methods such as a CT scan or an MRI. This creates a detailed blueprint of the heart, which can then be sent to a 3D printer. The printer will produce an identical plastic model of the heart, offering an in-depth look at the organ and any defects it may have.
James added: “These are just two of the many projects that Heartbeat helps to support and I cannot wait to learn more about what else they offer.”
Mark Ind, Chief Executive of Heartbeat, believes that James is the perfect representative to bridge the worlds of sport and cardiac care. He said, "Through James' incredible passion for Heartbeat, we hope to raise public awareness and deliver positive messages about the importance of heart health.
“Heart screening is now mandatory in professional sports clubs. However, with James' support, we are keen to raise awareness of the importance of implementing this practice more widely.”
He continued: "One of the objectives of our new Community Fundraising Manager, Tanya Harder, will be to connect with sports clubs, teams, and associations and emphasise the significance of cardiac activity in ensuring that individuals can lead long and healthy lives.
"Our proposed Prehab and Rehabilitation projects and Healthy Heart campaigns will focus on being proactive in caring for our hearts, aiming to prevent unfortunate situations later in life.”