Amanda Ross, from New Buildings is busy pounding the pavements in preparation for local health charity Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke’s (NICHS) upcoming Red Dress Fun Run. Amanda is running in memory of her beloved husband Barney who sadly passed away suddenly in August 2021 from a heart attack, aged just 60.
Amanda explains; “Barney had a massive heart attack from which he unfortunately never recovered. He had some symptoms the few weeks before that he just put down to overwork and bad indigestion. He was such a big character and full of life. He was our crazy diamond and is a huge loss to us all.”
The Red Dress Fun Run, proudly supported by MACE, takes place on Sunday 27th February at 11am at Stormont Estate. The five kilometre run or walk event aims to raise funds and awareness for heart disease. Sadly, four people in Northern Ireland die every day from heart disease and coronary heart disease is the biggest single cause of premature deaths in the under 75s. The event also coincides with National Heart Month (February), when NICHS encourage people to think about their cardiovascular health and the steps they can take towards a healthier, stronger heart.
For Amanda, raising awareness of heart health is now vitally important; “Barney started experiencing some heart attack symptoms, but he didn’t tell anyone, he just put them down to other things. We were supposed to go on holiday the week after Barney passed away and he was really looking forward to getting a rest as he felt so tired all the time, but he just put that down to working so much. Unbeknown to us, he was also experiencing some chest pains, but he didn’t phone the doctor and I believe if he had gone to get checked out I wouldn’t be sitting here as a widow today. I really want to make people aware of the potential symptoms of a heart attack, encourage them to seek advice if something doesn’t feel right and to try and change people’s attitudes to their health - please don’t keep quiet if you are worried about something.”
Despite their loss, Amanda and members of Barney’s family are thinking of others and how they can help raise heart health awareness amongst the local community. Amanda explains; “Men, particularly those around Barney’s age, can be more reluctant to tell their family or contact their doctor if something doesn’t seem right. We are particularly keen to spread awareness of the early warning signs of a potential heart problem and the importance of not ignoring these signs amongst men. We also want to encourage people to get their cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly- the signs of a potential issue aren’t always very obvious such as severe chest pains.”
“We are actively involved in our local cricket club, Glendermott Cricket Club, and after Barney’s passing we held a men’s health check event. As a result, three club members are now on medication for blood pressure and, or, high cholesterol so that’s three lives potentially saved. If all I can do by trying to raise awareness is to get people to think “I should really go and see the doctor about that” if something doesn’t feel quite right, then that is enough.”
Fidelma Carter, Head of Public Health at NICHS says; “A lot of people don’t realise they are actually having a heart attack. As Amanda’s story shows, the signs and symptoms are more varied than you would think. We are therefore urging people to remember the acronym STOP - if you notice yourself or someone else presenting with any of these symptoms, don’t wait, call an ambulance immediately.”
The STOP acronym stands 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.
Amanda is now busy preparing to take part in the Red Dress Fun Run in a few weeks’ time; “I completed the Couch to 5K programme about six years ago, but I haven’t run since. I have had great support though with people coming out running with me, even my grandchildren have joined in and my sister Jennifer is great at keeping me on track.”
“Over the past few weeks I’ve also recognised how exercise has given me great head space. It’s been good for my mental health after the trauma of losing Barney. It helps you to focus on something else for a while.”
Nadia Duncan, Events and Marketing Manager at NICHS is urging family members of every generation, age and ability to sign up to the event saying; “Today, there are over 335,000 people living with a chest, heart or stroke condition in Northern Ireland. NICHS has been by the side of the local community since 1946 and we hope people will be able to attend the Red Dress Fun Run 2022 to show their support for our work in our special 75th anniversary year.”
“Please support us by running, walking, dancing, skipping or wheeling 5K with us on Sunday 27th February at 11am at Stormont Estate, or, if you can’t make the live event you can do 5K your way any day, or days, in February via the virtual event.”
Amanda adds; “So far there is a group of 19 of us taking part in the Red Dress Fun Run including Barney’s son, plus his sister and his brother - who has promised to run in a red dress and wig! His nephew is also flying over from Scotland to run in his memory and he has another nephew who will be participating virtually for us in Australia.”
“If our involvement helps raise awareness of the early signs and symptoms of a heart attack and encourages people to get checked out if something doesn’t seem right, then we will feel Barney’s death won’t have been in vain.”
If you have been inspired by Amanda’s story you can sign up to the Red Dress Fun Run at www.nichs.org.uk/RedDressRun If you would like to support Amanda’s fundraising efforts visit, https://nichs.org.uk/fundraiser/red-dress-fun-run-2022-in-memory-of-barney-ross