Emsworth student raising awareness of rare disease after brother’s death

Will with his sister Annabelle. Search #PHAEggHeadChallenge on Facebook to see the videos in his memory
Will with his sister Annabelle. Search #PHAEggHeadChallenge on Facebook to see the videos in his memory

A student from Emsworth has launched an egg-themed challenge to raise awareness of the rare disease that took the life of her brother.

Will Acres died last month from pulmonary hypertension (PH), a serious condition affecting the heart and lungs, aged just 22.

Will Acres with his family in Christmas 2016

Will Acres with his family in Christmas 2016

His sister Annabelle, 21, a student at Cambridge University, has devised the ‘egg head challenge’ to promote awareness of the disease and raise money for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA UK).

Inspired by a video of Will using his forehead to crack an egg taped to his wardrobe door, Annabelle is encouraging people to film their own ‘egg smashes’ and post the video on Facebook, along with information about PH. Participants are also encouraged to nominate someone else to take on the challenge and make a text donation to the PHA UK, along with the hashtag #PHAEggHeadChallenge.

Former Bishop Luffa School pupil Will, who lived with his family in Emsworth, was diagnosed in the summer of 2016, after getting chest pains.

He was under the care of the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, and received a heart and double lung transplant at Harefield Hospital in December, 2017.

Will with his mum and sister while in hospital

Will with his mum and sister while in hospital

He died less than five weeks later, on 1 February.

Annabelle said: “I’ve been quite overwhelmed by the response to the Facebook challenge and I think Will would have found it all hilarious.

“He was fun, loving, and kind-hearted, with an amazing determination to make the most out of life, especially after his diagnosis.

“PH is such a rare disease, with devastating consequences.

Will Acres from Emsworth went to Bishop Luffa school

Will Acres from Emsworth went to Bishop Luffa school

“Will’s courage became very apparent as he became more ill and mum, dad and I did all that we could to make him realise how proud we were of him.

“We were also blown away by the respect that so many of Will’s friends had for him, as the response to the Facebook challenge shows.”

PH is an incurable disease that causes high blood pressure in the blood vessels connecting the heart and lungs. It is very rare, affecting just 7,000 people in the UK.

A memorial service held for Will on February 28 at St. James Church in Emsworth was attended by more than 500 people, raising £2,000 for PHA UK and the Royal Brompton hospital’s charity.

Friends and family are also taking on various other fundraising initiatives in his memory.

Annabelle said: “I think my family are still in disbelief that Will has passed, but we find comfort in knowing that in his short life, he became such an inspiration to so many people - his memorial service was a testament to this.

“PH is such a complex condition and there are many causes and symptoms, which are often mistaken for more common conditions like asthma.

“Will spent a lot of time thinking that some of his breathing problems were asthma-related but if he had known about his PH earlier, his heart would perhaps not have gotten to the point of irreversible damage as quickly as it did.”

Will went to St James Primary School in Emsworth before completing his GCSEs and A-Levels at Bishop Luffa School in Chichester. A keen DJ, he graduated last year from London’s British Institute of Modern Music with a degree in music production.

Search #PHAEggHeadChallenge on Facebook to see some of the videos made in Will’s memory.

-Symptoms of PH typically involve breathlessness, fatigue, black-outs and swelling around the ankles, arms and stomach

For further information about pulmonary hypertension visit www.phauk.org call the PHA UK office on 01709 761450 or e-mail office@phauk.org