Belfast mural unveiled in memory of North Belfast man who died suddenly aged 23

A powerful mural dedicated to a 23-year-old North Belfast man who died suddenly was unveiled today as part of a campaign to raise awareness of sudden cardiac death.

The artwork, located on Linenhall Street, depicts popular barman and electrician Joseph Burns, who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest at his parents’ home 10 years ago in July 2014. Twelve poignant murals have been unveiled across the UK by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to highlight the tragic reality that 12 young people under the age of 35 are lost every week to sudden cardiac death in the UK.

Joseph’s family are hoping this memorial will raise awareness of the urgency of sudden cardiac death in the young and encourage people to donate money to the BHF’s research to understand the causes, and find cures, for sudden cardiac death.

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Speaking on Friday, Joseph’s sister Jeanette said: "When Joseph died our family were absolutely devastated. He was the only boy in our family and everyone just loved him, he was so well known in north Belfast and after his death so many people contacted us to say what a gentleman he was. He made such a big impact on so many people.

"We didn’t know what had caused his death and it was hard dealing with that because we didn’t have any answers. We were referred to the inherited cardiac conditions service in Belfast and after tests we discovered that my mum Una and I carry the faulty gene for Long QT syndrome, so it is very likely that is what Joseph died from."

Long QT syndrome causes an electrical disturbance to the heart and puts those affected at risk of having a dangerous heart rhythm. Some people experience no symptoms at all, but others may faint or collapse. In some cases, LQTS can cause sudden death.

Jeanette added: "Joseph always had aspirations of having his own family. My sister was five months pregnant when he passed and he was so excited and making lots of plans for his little nephew. With him knowing his partner Sinead was possibly pregnant, he would have dreamt of being the best daddy in the world.

"Ten years on and we miss Joseph as much as ever, and being involved in this BHF campaign will help celebrate his life and keep his memory alive.

"The work the BHF is doing in raising awareness of sudden cardiac death in the young is so important. This will sadly happen again to other families, but as a family we have dedicated ourselves to raising money for BHF since Joseph’s death because we want to fund the research that will save lives.

"I think Joseph would be proud of the mural, and it was emotional to see it in person. Joseph was a massive part of our family and always will be - and we just want to keep his legacy alive."

The nation’s biggest heart charity says more needs to be done to prevent the heartbreaking tragedies that strike 12 families every week in the UK.

Fearghal McKinney, Head of British Heart Foundation NI said : "Too many lives, like Joseph’s, are being taken too soon by sudden cardiac death. No-one should have to experience the loss of their child, sibling or parent, but sadly that is the cruel reality of heart disease – it doesn’t discriminate.

"This powerful mural of Joseph in Belfast’s Linen Quarter will serve as a reminder of one of the many young lives that have been snatched away by sudden cardiac death, and we want to thank the Burns family who have kindly agreed to share Joseph’s story.

"The BHF is already carrying out groundbreaking research to treat and prevent the causes of sudden cardiac death, but there is still more to do. We urgently need donations to help us fund more lifesaving research to prevent other families going through this heartbreak."

To donate to the British Heart Foundation today, visit here.

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