Family embark on 3,700-mile tuk-tuk ride in tribute to daughter lost to epilepsy

A family is embarking on a 3,700-mile tuk-tuk ride from London to Istanbul to raise awareness of epilepsy five years after their youngest daughter diedsuddenly from the condition.

Rachel and Bharat Sumaria, both 58, will leave Portobello Road next month on a six-week trek through 21 countries in memory of Emily, who died aged 19 while she was at university. They will be joined by eldest daughter Amy and her boyfriend James Hewitt, both 27.

The challenge will raise money for SUDEP Action, which aims to combat and raise awareness of Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP).

“Beautiful and gregarious” Emily, a geography student at Leeds University, was found dead by her housemates on December 4, 2012. The night before, she had been happily chatting to her sister about an upcoming holiday in Cuba.

Her mother said: “We want everyone to be aware of the risks and help prevent unnecessary deaths in young people like Emily. We wanted to do something big that would attract attention. Emily was half Indian and the tuk-tuk will be a nod to her heritage. We’ve already had lots of offers of accommodation. Going over the Alps will be hard — the tuk-tuk only goes five miles an hour uphill. It might even be quicker to walk it.”

“Beautiful and gregarious”: Emily Sumaria , 19, died at university. (ES Local Feed )

The family, who live in the Portobello Road area, will depart on September 8 and travel through nations including France, Holland, Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Albania before arriving in Turkey. The route will snake down small roads to avoid motorways.

Mrs Sumaria said: “Emily was bright and gregarious and loved playing hockey. She did not have seizures every day — only four during her whole life.

“She took her medication and had a perfectly normal life and no one warned us this could happen.” A post-mortem examination was unable to determine cause of death. At an inquest the coroner cited sudden unexpected death from epilepsy as part of his written verdict.

There are 600,000 epilepsy sufferers in Britain. Each week some 21 die due to the condition but little is known about sudden and unexpected deaths relating to epilepsy. Those who develop epilepsy as teenagers, men, and those who miss medication are thought to be more susceptible. SUDEP Action advises and supports sufferers, lobbies politicians and works on research. The family has already raised nearly £100,000 and her friends have raised a similar amount.
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