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Julie Takes A Different Route After Much-Loved Dad’s Sudden Passing

23 Feb 2023
Cyril and Julie

Julie Middleton from Bready is busy pounding the pavements in preparation for taking on local health charity Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke’s (NICHS) Red Dress Fun Run. Julie is running in memory of her beloved father, Cyril Davis, who sadly passed away suddenly in April 2021 from a heart attack, aged just 57.

Now, Julie wants to raise funds and awareness for heart conditions which is why she is supporting this weekend’s Red Dress Fun Run 2023, supported by MACE and Musgrave MarketPlace. This will be her first time participating in the five-kilometre run or walk event which aims to raise funds for the charity’s care and prevention services and research as well as awareness of heart disease as it takes place in February which is Heart Month.

Julie explains; “Daddy was fit and healthy- he ate well, he was a keen cyclist and he worked hard in his job as a tree surgeon. He was caring, encouraging, fun and loving. He was a picture of health. That’s why everyone was so shocked when Daddy passed away and it has been such a tremendous loss to our family and Daddy’s friends.”

Recalling Cyril’s tragic passing Julie says; “Two days before Daddy passed away he came to visit us and had a great day with my son, who was 3 years old at the time, playing lots of games in the garden. Daddy was in the best of form seeing his grandson. I am very thankful we had that day together because two days later I got the worst phone call ever.”

“My aunt phoned and said my Mummy needed me and to come to her house straight away. I knew something was terribly wrong. I was on my way when my younger sister rang and told me Daddy had had a heart attack. I tend to live on the sunny side of life and said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m sure everything will be ok.’ I was in denial but that was probably the only way I was able to make that drive, by thinking positive thoughts.”

Julie continues; “When I arrived at the house Mummy told me Daddy had gone and I just couldn’t believe it. I felt like the world had stopped spinning.”

“Daddy had been out cycling with my great-uncle and said to him, ‘My chest is a bit sore’. My great-uncle thought he might have indigestion, so he went to get Daddy a tablet. He heard a thud and Daddy had collapsed. My great-uncle knew CPR and started doing compressions straight away whilst he phoned an ambulance. Unfortunately, even after the paramedics came and did all they could, they just couldn’t save Daddy.”

“The shock afterwards was just terrible. It was unbelievable that someone who was so fit and healthy and full of life, joy and encouragement for others was suddenly just gone. Daddy was only 57- we thought we had decades to go with him.”

Cyril 2

Despite her loss, Julie is thinking of others and how she can help raise heart health awareness amongst the local community. Julie says; “Raising awareness of heart health is so important to me and that’s why I am sharing Daddy’s story. I feel there is a stigma around men, particularly those of a similar age to Daddy, saying when they feel unwell or that something isn’t just quite right. I know a lot of people in our local communities, especially men, would say, ‘Oh no, I wouldn’t want to bother the doctor about that.’ But in my experience, they are only too willing to help and really care.”

“I am particularly keen to spread awareness of the early warning signs of a potential heart problem. A few days before suffering the heart attack Daddy mentioned his shoulder feeling sore, but he just put it down to his job and thought it was probably a muscular strain from climbing. He didn’t associate it with heart attack and neither did we- the signs of a potential issue aren’t always very obvious such as severe chest pains.”

“I want to raise awareness so other families don’t go through the same thing. I would say to people there’s nothing wrong with getting something checked out- ring your doctor, get that health check done. I only wish I could say that to Daddy now.”

Cyril’s heart attack also led to Julie looking at her own health and making big changes. Julie explains; “I wasn’t into health and fitness before what happened to Daddy. The time since Daddy’s passing has been a real time of learning for me in terms of my own health. I didn’t realise the consequences of living unhealthily. I am on a weight loss journey at the moment and it’s thanks to Daddy. I’ve lost three stone so far and am about half way to my target weight. I would have Daddy back a million times over but what happened to him has saved me.”

“My health choices in the past were poor, my Daddy’s weren’t, and I don’t want my son to have to relive my experience. I’ve taken action and am making changes. If I can improve my heart health that’s a major thing for me. I am on a journey to improve my health and wellbeing and I am definitely feeling the benefits of it.”

On that journey Julie came across an advert for Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke’s Red Dress Fun Run. Julie recalls; “I saw an ad for the 2022 Red Dress Fun Run- the date fell on what would have been Daddy’s 58th birthday and I just really wanted to take part. I signed up and was all set but unfortunately, I ended up having COVID and couldn’t go on the day. From then on I’ve been looking forward to doing it this year.”

“I had been regularly checking the NICHS website for information about this year’s event, and that’s when I also came across the great information they provide about looking after your health and wellbeing, as well as people’s stories of how the charity has helped them. The work they do is so important. I wish I had been aware of some of the information the charity provides many years ago and I wish I hadn’t had to learn about heart attack in the way I did.”

“Doing the Red Dress Fun Run is something really close to my heart and I’m really glad to have the opportunity to not only raise funds for NICHS but to talk about what happened to Daddy and raise awareness. I tell people about the charity and the information and support they provide and say, ‘Don’t let Daddy’s story be your story.’”

“My husband, Gary, and son David who is now 5 years old, are doing the Red Dress Fun Run with me. David knows why we’re doing the run- to remember Grandad and raise money and awareness for NICHS and he’s really excited. Daddy would’ve been so proud of me doing this.”


“As a family we’ve had a terrible time but there have been moments of real light through the journey. Daddy wouldn’t want us to be sad and he’d want us to be doing something positive. We’ll be thinking of him on Sunday with every step we take.”

2022’s Red Dress Run saw over 500 participants turn Stormont into a sea of red as they walked, ran, skipped and wheeled 5k across the estate, raising a staggering £50,000. This year, the event takes place once again at Stormont Estate, however the virtual element introduced due to previous COVID-19 restrictions remains, allowing people who can’t make it to the main event to complete 5K during the month of February.

Tara Currie, NICHS Events & Marketing Manager is urging family members of every generation, age and ability to come along and take part in the event saying, “Sadly, four people in Northern Ireland die every day from heart disease, and coronary heart disease is the biggest single cause of premature deaths of under 75s.”

“So please come join us on Sunday at Stormont Estate. Online registrations are now closed but you can still come along and register on the day - registrations close at 10:45am on Sunday. Dress red, wear your heart on your sleeve to remember a loved one and together we can help rebuild thousands of lives and make a lasting change towards heart health in Northern Ireland. Everyone is welcome to join in the fun - even the family pooch!”

The charity will once again partner with MACE for 2023 and are delighted to welcome sister company Musgrave MarketPlace which will also support the event. Diane Anthony from Musgrave says, “Mace and Musgrave MarketPlace are both backing NICHS’s call for people to dress in red and wear their heart on their sleeve at this year’s event, which is set to be fantastic. Whether you’re taking part in memory of someone you have lost to heart disease, celebrating someone who is living with a heart condition, or to prevent heart disease happening to someone in the future – come and join us to support this worthy cause!”

If you have been inspired to step up to the challenge by Julie’s story you can find out more about the Red Dress Fun Run at