Lisa Collins who was brought back to life after cardiac arrest backing charity that saved her
A mother-of-three brought back to life after suffering a cardiac arrest is campaigning to raise awareness of heart disease so families don't spend Christmas with an empty seat at the table.
Lisa Collins (44), from Carrickfergus, was on a day out with a friend in August 2014 when she began to feel very unwell, with pains in her chest and right arm.
"It was just a normal day out shopping with my friend when I felt this terrible pain in my right arm that went across my back and down my left arm," she recalled.
Realising that something was seriously wrong, her friend phoned for an ambulance and Lisa was taken to Altnagelvin Hospital.
"In hospital they sent me for a chest x-ray, then wheeled me back to the ward," said Lisa.
"The next thing I can remember is I woke up hearing someone screaming. I didn't realise at that time that person was me.
"I'd had a cardiac arrest and my heart had stopped before I was defibrillated. I didn't realise what had just happened to me.
"Shortly after I heard a doctor close by on the phone talking about a female patient who had a cardiac arrest and could go again at any time, and I can remember thinking to myself 'that poor woman', having no idea he actually meant me."
Her ex-husband and three children rushed to the hospital.
It was only at that stage that she realised what had happened.
"I had actually died and been brought back to life," she added.
A few days later, Lisa was fitted with two stents in one of her coronary arteries before being released from hospital.
Since the cardiac arrest, Lisa has tried to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
"Before this all happened I had never been sick and had always considered myself in good health, though I did smoke," Lisa explained.
"Now I do my best to stay as healthy as I can and am out quite a bit walking the dog. I haven't smoked since the day it happened."
Her family have also played a big role in her recovery.
"My family have been so supportive and it has brought us closer in a way, even though it was a very scary experience for everyone," added Lisa.
"One year exactly after it happened, they held a surprise 'first' birthday party for me with a cake and balloons saying you're one today.
"It was brilliant fun and a bit of a light-hearted way at saying, yes, I did die, but I have survived. It's this that helps me through it.
"It makes every Christmas even more special knowing that we spend it together as a family when I could have been dead."
Lisa is now supporting the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Northern Ireland Christmas campaign to raise awareness of the heart research that is keeping families together this festive season.
Lisa herself owes a lot to the charity.
Her life was saved by a portable defibrillator and surgery to fit two stents - a procedure also developed with the help of BHF research.
BHF specialist heart nurse, Karen McCammon, said: "Every single day, heart disease kills five people in Northern Ireland and the lives of families are shattered.
"Lisa was lucky, but so many families will spend this Christmas with an empty seat around the dinner table."
To support the BHF campaign, text HEART to 70444 to donate £5.
For more information about the campaign, heart health and research, visit bhf.org.uk/northernireland.