Sunday 24 September 2017

'My dad went out for a cycle and never returned home'- David Quirke on how short life can be

After his seemingly healthy father died of a heart attack during a regular outing on his bicycle, David Quirke is determined his father's death will not be in vain. The 24-year-old tells Arlene Harris why keeping on top of his own health and fitness, and getting his heart checked, is now his top priority

David Quirke and his late dad Noel
David Quirke and his late dad Noel
David Quirke from Navan.

Arlene Harris

Every hour in Ireland someone suffers from a stroke, and every day hundreds of Irish people are diagnosed with heart disease. Fortunately 80pc of this disease is preventable, and this week (May 5 and 6) sees the launch of the Happy Heart Appeal as the Irish Heart Foundation raises awareness about heart health.

David Quirke's father, Noel, was just 58-years-old when he died of a heart attack in June 2015.

"My Dad used to smoke but he gave up 13 years ago and never went back," says 24-year-old David, from Navan. "A year after that, he had some heart trouble and was fitted with three stents but was literally in brilliant health ever since.

"He looked after his diet, took regular exercise and even though he had high cholesterol, all of his medical check-ups seemed to say that he was in great shape."

But things were not well underneath the surface, and last summer the late milkman went out for a cycle and never returned home.

"Dad was such a hard worker and before his job as a milkman, he worked nights in the post office, so was always aware of the need to get some exercise in when he wasn't working," says David. "His knee had been giving him a bit of trouble but he found that cycling helped to ease the pain so he was often out and about on his bike.

"On the second of June last year, he left to go for a cycle on his own. I got a message from a Facebook friend asking me to call her immediately. I was a bit surprised as I didn't know her that well and was going to leave it, because I was on my way to a match, but something made me ring, and I can tell you I was totally shocked when she said she had come across my father lying on the road.

"I called my brother as he was nearby and an ambulance had arrived by the time he got there. I waited by the phone but was terrified of him calling me back as I knew when he did, it would be bad news - and it was."

Despite the paramedics arriving on the scene within minutes and immediately tending to Noel, there was nothing they could do to save his life and the father-of-four passed away before he reached the hospital.

"We were so shocked by my father dying like that," admits David. "He just went out for a cycle and that was it, with no warning signs that anything was wrong; we never saw him again. We were all devastated.

"Dad was such a good role model - was always a hardworking man and taught us all what we needed to get through life. He was great fun and always so full of life - he loved gardening and had a real passion for the GAA as he was a huge Tipperary supporter, because that is where he was originally from.

"Like anyone who goes through something like this, we have our good and bad days and have found that the busier we have kept ourselves, the easier it is to cope with his loss.

"Unfortunately life goes on, no matter how hard things are, so we have been trying to keep our minds occupied."

With this aim, David rallied 10 family members and friends to join him in the upcoming Vhi Women's Mini Marathon and says his dad would have loved the idea of the men dressing up as women to take part.

"We came up with the idea of the marathon because we wanted to do something together as a group to raise funds for the Irish Heart Foundation, and this race is not only a good cause but will be good fun.

"We won't be competing for medals, but just want to do something in my Dad's honour as it will almost be exactly a year since he died - plus he would have found the idea of us wearing women's clothes hilarious."

As well as being a light-hearted way to remember his father, David believes that taking part in the race will help them all get into shape. "I know Dad wouldn't want us to be sad all the time and would want us to create the best life possible for ourselves, so that is what we are all trying to do," he says. "My family and I are all going to get tested for heart problems and getting fit for the marathon is a good way to stay healthy.

"The shock of losing my Dad has made me realise how important it is to look after your health by eating well, exercising, not smoking and cutting down on drinking.

"So from here on, I am determined to be as fit and healthy as I can and to live every day to the full as I know only too well how short life can be."

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