A GP would have discovered Alexander Dale Oen’s illness, says older brother Robin

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Robin Dale Oen believes that the life of his brother Alexander could have saved, and criticises the support team for failing to notice his heart disease, instead believing that his symptoms were because of a pinched nerve.

– “If we weren’t athletes, if we were like the man in the street, then Alexander would definitely be alive today. A general practitioner would have discovered the heart disease very early,” says Dale Oen.

Alexander Dale Oen’s died at the height of his sport career. He died suddenly and without warning while on altitude camp with the Norwegian national swim team in April 2012.

Alexander knew that heart disease ran in the family, but didn’t suffer any symptoms that something was seriously wrong until during the winter three years ago.

– “He had a heart attack about three or four months before he died, but it wasn’t discovered until after he died,” says Dale Oen.

Sad about what happened

Roald Bahr, chief physician at the Norwegian élite sports center Olympiatoppen wishes that they had managed to discover the illness.

– “We respect the family’s message, and their sorrow. We share their grief. Both Olympiatoppen and our attending physician gave their unreserved apology to the family when the autopsy report was presented. And we still stand behind this apology. Alexander Dale Oen’s heart disease could have been discovered, but neither we nor our experts managed to do this. This we regret.”

Common gene defect

First after the autopsy, came the diagnosis. The disease got a name: Familial hypercholesterolemia. This is a hereditary genetic disorder, and it is possible that as many as half a percent of all Norwegians have it, says Ottar Nygård, professor of cardiology at the University of Bergen.

– The disease is easily discovered as you only need to take a normal blood sample and send it to the state hospital. They the do a gene test, and you get an answer within a week.

How dangerous is the disease if you get medicine for it?

– If you take medicine, then some believe that the risk for getting a heart attack is on par with that for those who don’t have the gene defect, says Nygård.

Not bitter

The older brother says he is not bitter that the gene defect was not discovered, despite sympon and family history. But he hopes that people can learn from Alexander Dale Oen’s death.

Shouldn’t you yourself have thought about the possibility that you could be sick?

– “We knew that there was sickness in the family, but we thought that we couldn’t be struck by it. We were élite athletes after all, and our focus was on becoming the best in the world.”

Read and watch NRK (in Norwegian)

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Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

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