Family share their tragedy to support heart attack campaign

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A Dundrod family are sharing their story of tragedy in an effort to encourage people who are “fortunate enough” to have the warning signs of heart attack to take action.

Doreen Irvine and her five children lost Edmond in October 2014 and they still find it hard to believe that he is gone.

“We were married for 31 years and had watched our children grow up and make us grandparents,” said Doreen.

“Edmond was an active farmer and although he had had a stroke 22 years ago when he was just 39, he made a good recovery.

“After initially losing his speech and some movement, he made great improvements to point where he returned to milking the cows only 10 days later when he got out of hospital.

“The only issue he had was his right hand was not as strong as his left and he was on medication following the stroke but that was reduced over the years. Edmond wasn’t a sickly man. He maybe got colds, but was just the same as everyone else.”

On 25th October 2014, Edmond was taking part in a sponsored walk on Divis Mountain. He’d phoned his wife Doreen twice that day and everything was going well. He didn’t mention anything out of the ordinary.

He was walking with friends and didn’t state to them that he was feeling unwell or finding the going difficult. In fact, when he collapsed, he fell to the ground so soundlessly that they thought he had just tripped.

Sadly Edmond hadn’t tripped. A blockage in the main artery had caused his heart to fail and despite immediate attention from a first aider and nurses who were also on the mountain that day, plus the arrival of paramedics, who worked on him all the way to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Edmond passed away.

Following his stroke in 1993, Edmond and his family had supported NI Chest Heart & Stroke, and he had raised money for the charity through his 60th birthday in 2013.

Following his death, Doreen decided a good way to pay tribute to him would be to raise more money in his memory. The family held a barbecue in June 2015 which was very well supported by friends and family and gave them an opportunity to remember the man they had lost.

As well as raising money, the family are also supporting NI Chest Heart & Stroke’s current campaign which aims to make people aware of the warning signs of a heart attack.

Edmond’s daughter Stacy explained: “The doctors reckon it was all over before my dad hit the ground. He had no warning signs but what I do want to say to other people is this: If you are fortunate enough to have warning signs, please do not ignore them. I know it is strange to say someone would be ‘fortunate’ to have warning signs of a heart attack, but those symptoms are there to give you the chance to get medical help. Don’t leave your family thinking ‘If Only’.”

Fidelma Carter, Public Health Director at NI Chest Heart & Stroke, said: “As Edmond’s tragic story shows, sometimes there are no warning signs, but often there are. Every minute that passes can mean the difference between life and death. That is why NICHS has launched its STOP campaign in an effort to save lives. STOP is an acronym for:

S - Something’s not right – symptoms can start slowly

T - Tightness or pain in the chest, pain in the arm, neck or jaw

O - Other symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea or sweating

P - Phone 999 immediately – the ambulance crew will do an ECG

More information on the symptoms of heart attack can be found online on the HICHS website