Tony Gately: My sister has the same heart condition that killed our Stephen
WHEN Boyzone star Stephen Gately died suddenly on holiday in 2009 his close-knit family were left devastated.
But his heartbroken siblings and their children faced even more anguish when they underwent tests to discover if they too were at risk.
And in a cruel twist, it turned out that Stephen’s sister Michelle Carr has the same heart condition that killed the popular singer.
Now Stephen’s younger brother Tony has set up a memorial fund in his brother’s name and is competing in this year’s Great Scottish Run to raise money and awareness.
Stephen died aged 33 in Majorca of sudden arrythmia death syndrome, also known as sudden adult death syndrome.
Tony is urging anyone who thinks they could be at risk to get checked.
The 30-year-old, who lives in Edinburgh, said: “After Stephen passed away the whole family had to get checked because we didn’t know if it was hereditary.
“It took me months to go. I suppose I was scared of getting bad news. It turned out my sister Michelle has it but she’s caught it and is on medication to control it.”
Bus driver Tony, who lives with his wife Claire and sons, Josh, eight, Adam, six and four-month-old Harry, said the singer looked as fit as ever when he last saw him alive, during a tour at Glasgow’s SECC.
But he warned even the healthiest people can be struck down without warning. He explained: “Stephen was as fit as a fiddle, he was training really hard.
“But as was shown with footballer Fabrice Muamba, you don’t have to lie around the house eating take-aways every night to have a heart condition. You can be super-fit.
“A simple check-up could have saved Stephen’s life and I would urge everyone to get checked out if they think they might have a problem.
“All our kids have to be screened because it could skip a generation. It’s very worrying.
“I received letters and emails from people all over Europe who have lost husbands, brothers and fathers to cardiac conditions and I just thought, ‘it’s time to do something’.”
Stephen’s family has been thinking about the memorial fund for two years and Tony is delighted it’s up and running.
But he admits parents Margaret and Martin, brothers Mark, 41, and Alan, 37, and Michelle, 40, are struggling to cope. And he revealed he can’t bring himself to read Stephen’s novel, The Tree Of Seasons, which was published after his death.
He said: “We are all still grieving. I haven’t even read his book. That’s part of him I don’t want to let go, it was nearly the last thing he did.
“Claire has read it to Josh and Adam and they love it. Stephen based one of the characters on Josh.
“At the show at Glasgow’s SECC, Stephen and the lads flew over the audience on special cables and he came down and picked the boys up, which will live on in their memory.
“I was so proud. I looked up to Stephen so much, he was brilliant.”
Tony, who hopes to launch a singing career, has released a song in his brother’s memory, called He’s Still Around, written by Stephen’s friend Steve Coxshall, who also manages boyband Blue.
Poignantly, Stephen — known as Steo to pals — heard an early version of the tune and loved it.
Tony said: “It was originally called She’s Still Around, but I changed the lyrics. I recorded it last weekend in London and it was so hard standing in the booth singing because that’s how I remember Stephen.
“I feel as though something is pushing me towards it.” Tony’s running the 10k at the Bank of Scotland Great Scottish Run in September in aid of charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY).
Boyzone star Keith Duffy has tweeted fans to sponsor him, writing: “Steo Gately’s Baby Brother making a difference, please support him!”
CRY’s Alison Cox said: “We are grateful for Tony’s support.”
Visit c-r-y.org.uk The Bank of Scotland Great Scottish Run takes place on September 1 and 2. Choose from children’s races, 10k or half marathon. It costs from £20 for the 10k and £25 for the half marathon. To enter go to runglasgow.org