Harry Carlisle’s daughters Heidi and Emma were only 9 years and 5 years old when he died of a heart attack almost 20 years ago. He was 54 years old. Despite being so young, the girls have very fond memories of their dad. Their mother Joan recalls how devoted her husband, who was the head groom at a local riding school, was to his children. “When Heidi was born, I almost had to make an appointment to see her, Harry spent so much time with her. He would take her out all day long, carrying all the milk and baby supplies he needed to look after her.”
Unfortunately the girls did not have their dad for long. Harry had been diagnosed with angina shortly after marrying Joan. However, his condition was under control and he had given up smoking.
Joan explains what happened on winter’s day in January 1996. “Harry and a friend were out walking the dog. The dog got caught in briars on a walkway beside some water and couldn’t get itself free. The water level was so high that Harry thought the dog might drown so he ran up the road to get help. By the time he was back though, the dog had freed itself.
“Harry had a physical job but maybe the exertion of the run was too much for him. Suddenly he grabbed hold of the wall and that was it. He had a massive heart attack. As he grabbed the wall, his hand got trapped between the stones of the wall. That was the only thing that prevented him from falling into the water himself.
“Harry’s friend ran to a neighbour’s house and they phoned the ambulance and me. When I arrived, I noticed the skin behind his ears had turned purple and I just knew it was all over. The ambulance crew worked on him but there was nothing they could do.
“In the weeks leading up to his death, Harry’s angina had not been getting worse. He hadn’t mentioned feeling unwell. He had taken flu earlier that winter and that had taken a lot out of him. But there were no warning signs that I was aware of.
“There is nothing I can do to change what happened to my family, but what I want to say to others 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.”
Find out more about the cardiac support services that Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke offer.