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Belfast dad supports charity fun run in memory of beloved wife who passed away from an undiagnosed heart condition aged just 34

25 Jan 2024

Nicky Goodall from Belfast is encouraging the public to sign up to local health charity Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke’s (NICHS) Red Dress Fun Run which takes place next month. Nicky, and sons Daniel, 7, and Matthew, 4, are taking part in the event in memory of their beloved wife and mum, Dympna, who tragically passed away in November 2021 with undiagnosed dilated cardiomyopathy. Dympna was just 34 years old.

The Red Dress Fun Run, supported by MACE and Musgrave MarketPlace, is a five-kilometre event which aims to raise funds for NICHS’s care and prevention services and research, as well as awareness for heart illness as it takes place in February which is Heart Month. This is Nicky’s first time taking part in the event after previously completing the 2023 Belfast City Half Marathon for the charity.

Recalling Dympna’s tragic passing Nicky says; “One evening we were sitting chatting and Dympna just collapsed. She had had a cardiac arrest. I gave her CPR and was able to restart her heart before the ambulance arrived. Dympna was taken to hospital and was in ICU for a week before she passed away. It was my worst nightmare and utterly heart-breaking. Dympna’s passing came as a complete shock and it has been such an unbelievable loss to our entire family.”


“We later found out Dympna had undiagnosed dilated cardiomyopathy which is a disease of the heart muscle. It makes the muscle walls become stretched and thin. The thinner walls are weakened which means the heart can’t work properly to pump blood to the rest of the body.”

Dympna had been experiencing tiredness and shortness of breath over the months previous but as Nicky explains, the symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy she was experiencing were put down to other factors. “Dympna had our second son, Matthew, in January 2020, and our eldest son Daniel was in P1. Naturally there is a lot of feeling tired and run down which comes with looking after young children and we put her symptoms down to that. She actually went to see her GP the day before she had the cardiac arrest because she sensed something wasn’t quite right with how she was feeling. Sadly, her condition was not picked up in time.”

“The suddenness of it all was so hard. It is still hard to believe that someone who was fit and healthy and so full of life, is suddenly just gone. Dympna was only 34- she should have had decades and decades to look forward to and spend with our sons. Daniel was only five and Matthew was just a baby when Dympna passed away. It was incredibly difficult, and still is. Now they are a little older the boys ask questions about their mum and there are always little things that crop up, so we just try to manage day by day. I’m very proud of them and they both have Dympna’s eyes which is lovely.”

Over time, despite his loss, Nicky wanted to do something to help others in his wife’s memory. He explains; “I decided to do last year’s Belfast City Half Marathon to raise funds for Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke in tribute to Dympna. I knew about the charity from when Dympna and I were studying to be teachers and we passed their office every day on the way home from university. I liked the fact the charity is Northern Ireland based and helps local people. They also do a lot of prevention work, trying to make people aware of heart health, risk factors and symptoms, and to encourage people to seek medical advice if there is something related to their health that they aren’t happy about.”


“I decided on a running fundraiser as I actually don’t really like running so I knew it would be a real challenge! I was also trying to be more aware of my own health- to be more active and healthier so I can be there for the boys and run around and play with them. The training was great for that. The Red Dress Fun Run is the next thing I am doing in support of NICHS.”

Nicky continues; “It is important to me to try and educate people and that’s why I am sharing Dympna’s story and supporting the charity. Dympna’s main symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy, feeling lethargic and being out of breath, were easily put down to the fatigue associated with having a young family. She didn’t think they were symptomatic of an issue with her heart, and neither did I- the signs of a potential issue aren’t always severe and very obvious.”

“I know the devastating impact heart related conditions can have on a family. February is Heart Month so it’s the perfect time to try and raise heart health awareness. I would say to people there’s nothing wrong with getting something that’s niggling them checked out. Don’t ignore things or brush them off. People sometimes have the misconception that heart conditions are more likely to affect older people, but this isn’t always the case. Dympna was so young. I hope talking about what happened to Dympna will help spread awareness.”


Nicky is looking forward to the Red Dress Fun Run saying; “Daniel and Matthew are taking part in the event with me. What makes the Red Dress Fun Run different is that it is an all-inclusive fun run and people of every age and ability are encouraged to take part. Daniel is very into superheroes at the moment, so we might even dress up. But we will be remembering Dympna with every step we take.”

Last year NICHS hosted the biggest Red Dress Fun Run to date, with over 700 participants coming together at the live event at Stormont, as well as the virtual version which saw participants taking part in their local area. The same format remains for 2024, allowing people who can’t make it to the main event to complete 5K their way during the month of February.

Christine Duncan, Events and Marketing Manager at the charity, is urging the public to sign up to the event saying; “We are so grateful to Nicky for sharing his family’s story and for supporting the Red Dress Fun Run. Dympna’s passing is truly tragic and sadly, so many people are affected by heart illness in our local communities. Coronary heart disease is the biggest single cause of premature deaths in people younger than 75 across NI and heart disease kills nearly twice as many women here as cervix, uterus, ovary and breast cancer combined.”

“So please come run, walk, dance, skip or wheel 5K with us on Sunday 25th February at Stormont Estate, or if you can’t make the live event, you can support us by doing 5k your way any day, or over days, in February. Together we can help rebuild thousands of lives and make a lasting change towards heart health in Northern Ireland. Everyone is welcome to come along and join in the fun - even the family pooch!”

The charity will once again partner with MACE and Musgrave MarketPlace for the 2024 event. Diane Anthony from Musgrave says; “MACE and Musgrave MarketPlace are both backing NICHS’s call for people to dress up in red and come together at this year’s event to raise awareness and funds to fight heart illness. Whether you’re taking part in memory of someone you have lost to heart illness, celebrating someone who is living with a heart condition, or to prevent heart disease happening to someone in the future – sign up and join us to support this worthy cause! It’s set to be a fantastic day.”

If you have been inspired to step up to the challenge, you can sign up to the Red Dress Fun Run at