A WOMAN whose heart stopped beating for 15 minutes has paid tribute to the medics who saved her life and praised the cutting-edge equipment that played a key role.

Rowena O’Connell, 45, was brought back to life in her living room, having collapsed while redecorating on a Sunday afternoon last autumn.

Now recovering at her Great Asby home, near Appleby, Mrs O’Connell said she was indebted to the Great North Air Ambulance Service, GNAAS, the charity which brought the ground-breaking AutoPulse machine to treat her.

The AutoPulse is a battery powered non-invasive cardiac support pump which delivers consistent, high quality mechanical chest compressions.

It is on trial with GNAAS, whose medics fitted it to Mrs O’Connell’s chest shortly before her heart beat returned.

Mrs O’Connell said: “The wallpaper had been up for years and years and my husband was just starting to take it off.

“It was going everywhere and I was scrabbling around tidying it up. That’s all I can remember.”

As she fell unconscious, her husband Ian, a mechanic, began his frantic efforts to resuscitate her, while her son Kieran, 18, called for an ambulance.

A doctor and a paramedic were flown out by the GNAAS from Langwathby, near Penrith.

They were joined at the scene by road paramedics and a rapid response doctor.

It is not the first time Mrs O’Connell has had heart problems.

She has already had two heart valve replacements and was due for a check-up three days after her collapse.

The air ambulance was on scene about 15 minutes after she collapsed.

GNAAS paramedic Andy Dalton said that through CPR, drugs and the AutoPulse, the team was able to restore her pulse and she was carried on a stretcher over the garden wall to the aircraft in an adjacent field.

He added: “The helicopter is fitted with equipment that allowed us to take over her breathing on the way to James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough.

“She started to move as well which was a great sign, but she was still critically unwell.

“I’m just glad we could get there and bring all this equipment and expertise to the scene.

“It sounds bad but Mrs O’Connell wouldn’t have made it without the intervention, it’s as simple as that.”

Mrs O’Connell was already a GNAAS supporter, having signed up to the charity’s weekly lottery earlier in the year.

She said: “You really don’t realise how important it is until you have to call on it.

“I’m so very grateful. Something like this makes you realise how precious life is and how you have to make the very most of it.”