Mum-of-two’s ‘wake up call’ after sudden heart attack aged just 45


A busy mum-of-two has said having a heart attack at the age of 45 has given her a huge ‘wake up call’.

Kirsty Cherry, is aiming to raise people’s awareness about heart disease after she was left shocked by the sudden health problem.

The self-employed events manager knew her health wasn’t great because she is diabetic and her family history features heart issues but the cardiac arrest still caught her completely by surprise.

Now six months after her heart scare Kirsty is aiming to bring people’s attention to the risks of heart failure in the hope that she can help save someone’s life.

The 45-year-old mum with her two children Katie and Thomas
The 45-year-old mum with her two children Katie and Thomas

“There are heart problems on the paternal side of my family, affecting my grandmother and father, who have both had bypasses, while most of my aunts and uncles have had other issues too,” Kirsty told Belfast Live.

“My dad’s heart problems were discovered when he was 48. I always thought that it might catch up with me eventually but obviously I imagined I’d have a lot more time! I’m also diabetic and that tends to escalate things so you’re more prone to other health issues.

“But I just wasn’t looking out for myself, I was overweight and worrying about keeping a roof over my head, bills, the kids getting back to school – stressing about things not in my control.”

Kirsty, who is from Moneyreagh, Co Down and mum to Katie, 15, and Thomas, 13, is a PR professional who also owns Cherry Moon candles.

It was normal Friday morning on August 20, 2021 when she first noticed the warning signs.

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“I was eating a piece of toast when I took a terrible pain in my chest and shoulders and what I thought was awful heartburn. It came and went throughout the day,” she recalled.

The mum-of-two got a huge health scare six months ago due to the heart attack
The mum-of-two got a huge health scare six months ago due to the heart attack

“I didn’t suspect anything serious so I had a quick lie down, took some paracetamol and Gaviscon. Then I went to work and made 100 candles that morning!

“When I came home at lunchtime, the same thing happened again so I took the same action. Later that night when I was watching a movie with Katie, the pain came on again and I lay curled up for a good half hour in agony.

“I did wonder if it was a heat attack and even Googled ‘severe heartburn’, which has the same symptoms, but eventually the pain passed and I fell asleep.”

When Kirsty woke up the following morning, she felt like she “had been hit by a bus: “It was like I had been kicked by someone wearing Doctor Martens.”

Kirsty called Out of Hours and was advised to go to A&E, where following an ECG and blood tests, she was told she had suffered a heart attack.

She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“I’m only 45. I can’t have a heart attack. I thought, I can’t be ill. I’m self-employed so I was worried about how I was going to work or earn money.

“I didn’t even want to be admitted to hospital but I was told I was going straight to the cardiology ward, and that was that.

“When I went to cardiac rehab at the Ulster Hospital everyone looked at me because I was about 20 years young than all the others there. One lovely older lady, who had suffered the same sort of heart attack as me, even said to me ‘you’re too young to be here!’”

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The following Tuesday Kirsty was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital for further tests and had a stent fitted to unblock a narrowed and blocked artery.

She returned home that night, still in a state of shock following her order.

“It had to absorb it all and I only confided in a few close friends and some my family that I’d been in hospital as due to Covid restrictions no-one was allowed to visit me anyway.

“My dad was on holiday at the time so I didn’t tell him until he got back and then he was dreadfully annoyed and said he’d have come home if he had known.”

Despite all she’s been through, Kirsty says she counts her experience as a blessing in some respects.

“I feel blessed that the heart attack wasn’t serious and that I didn’t collapse on the ground or anything. I’ve got the medical treatment now that will prevent me from becoming seriously ill in the future.

“Yes I have had some weepy moments but I’m trying to take it in my stride,” she explained.

Kirsty says her heart attack has also been a ‘wake up call’ to change her lifestyle and improve her heart health.

“Now I’m trying to reduce my alcohol intake, improve my diet and generally look after myself more.”

Although she is still recovering, Kirsty has learned all too well how heart illness can impact your life.

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“The road to recovery has been difficult at times, with some setbacks, but I am determined to be the best I can be. You can get very down during recovery and that is where it is important to reach out to friends and medical professionals for support.”

Kirsty got in touch with Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke for support following her heart attack and now she’s to be an ambassador for their Red Dress Fun Run this February.

“I’ve learned just how important your heart health is, so with my family, I’ll be taking part to raise awareness and much needed funds to help NICHS be there for people like me affected by heart illness in Northern Ireland,” Kirsty added.

“I’m speaking out to help other people, especially women, who think heart disease and heart attacks are not relevant to them. It can happen to anyone at any age.

“I want to encourage other people to take healthy steps and join us at the Red Dress Fun Run. If telling my story helps even one other person, I’ll be happy.”

If you’ve been inspired by Kirsty’s story, then why not step up to the challenge? Whether you are running or walking in memory of a loved one or simply to get active, sign yourself, friends, and family up to the Red Dress Fun Run on Sunday, February 27, at 11am.

Sign up to the race by clicking here.

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www.dailyrecord.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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