A former cleaner is studying to become a nurse out of gratitude to the hospital staff who saved her life.
Colleen Ismay, aged 50, left school with no qualifications and was working as a cleaner at Coventry City Football Club when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Surgeons at Walsgrave Hospital operated to remove a benign growth the size of a tangerine. Doctors told her if it had been left just a few more years, she would not have seen her 50th birthday.
Mrs Ismay, mother of 19-year-old Andrew, knew something was wrong when her sight started to deteriorate in 2000.
"I had to hoover the restaurants at the football club and once or twice the supervisor came and said 'you haven't done the restaurant' and I would say 'but I have'. There'd be some peas or something on the floor that I just hadn't seen. I couldn't see prices on things in the supermarkets. At first doctors thought it was glaucoma."
In January 2001 tests revealed a swelling on her optic nerve. She was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
"It was very frightening but it was like I was outside looking in," said Mrs Ismay.
"I'd think 'oh, that poor girl'. It didn't dawn until afterwards that it was all happening to me."
Consultant neurosurgeon Martin Christie spent ten hours operating on her to remove the tumour which had developed undetected for 20 years.
Mrs Ismay was warned she could emerge from surgery blind and with no memory of her family or former life.
"When I opened my eyes I could see my husband, David, and everything was fine. My sight was immediately restored. They had caught the tumour just in time."
She was filled with gratitude for the skill and warmth of the staff at Walsgrave - particularly her surgeon.
"As soon as I met him, I trusted him," she said. "I had no qualms about putting my health in his hands.
"Afterwards I thanked him and I said if I won the lottery I would buy another bed for the intensive care unit. He said: 'It's not beds we need, it's the nurses to run them'.
"At school I'd dreamt of becoming a nurse, but I was one of a family of seven children and in the end I left without qualifications to get a job."
Mrs Ismay took a nine-month Open University course as a foundation to studying and was then accepted on a nursing diploma course at Coventry University.
She studies 40 hours per week and undertakes placements at hospitals, including Walsgrave, and has now decided to specialise in mental health.
"When you get a shock and think you might die, you realise you don't get a second chance," she said. "Rather than plod along in a mundane job I decided I wanted to do something that meant something."
She added: "In some ways the tumour has done me a favour. I appreciate the simple things. I've realised life is not a trial run."
Mr Christie said "I think that any patient that under-goes this form of surgery is extremely brave and it is very gratifying when somebody pulls through the surgery as well as Colleen has and even more gratifying when she puts something back into medical care in the way that she is.
"I would like to pay tribute to her for that."
Associate director of nursing Sue Smith said: "It is great news that she has decided to train to be a nurse. We wish her every success for her new chosen career." ..SUPL: