When Lyneth Howells said her wedding vows, the parents of the bride weren’t the only ones to shed a few tears.
All the guests gathered in the church felt emotional because no one had expected Lyneth to make it to the altar.
In fact, just a few months ago close friends and family thought they would be arranging her funeral rather than a wedding. In March, the 48-year-old was rushed to hospital after suffering a massive heart attack.
Paramedics and doctors battled to save Lyneth who technically died and was saved by 40 minutes of resuscitation.
The Fareham teacher was then in a coma for six days and her family were told she wasn’t expected to live.
But last weekend she stood before them at St Faith’s Church, Havant, wearing a gorgeous lace vintage dress and beaming at husband Wesley.
‘It was incredibly emotional,’ says Lyneth, who thoughtfully placed tissues in the pews. ‘A lot of people were crying, I’d cried all the way through the rehearsals. My family, friends and Wesley had been through hell. At one point they were expecting to organise my funeral and didn’t think this would ever happen.’
Mum and dad Joyce and Les looked on proudly and sister Bethan, a gifted vocalist, sang Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro as Lyneth walked into the church.
And among the expectant guests was another special person – Helen Peet, one of the team of doctors who saved Lyneth’s life.
Although the critical care consultant says she is one of the many people who worked hard for Lyneth, she was singled out for an invitation and a special thank you.
‘I was very lucky to survive and not have any brain damage and this woman saved my life. I was just so pleased she could come to the wedding,’ says the newlywed.
Both Wesley and Lyneth paid special thanks to Helen during their speeches and also the paramedics who spent 40 minutes resuscitating Lyneth before her hospital treatment.
‘They didn’t give up on me when they could have done,’ she says. ‘It seemed everyone gave much more than I would ever have ever expected and I’m so grateful.’
The paramedics, Helena and Karen, couldn’t make it to the wedding but sent a card. The women were part of a team of professionals called to Lyneth’s home after she began feeling unwell on a seemingly ordinary Tuesday evening.
The Warblington School teacher had pains under her arms and started to be sick. She was on her own because Wesley, a medic and security guard, was working in Iraq for a firm protecting oil workers.
‘It was always me worrying about him when he was out there,’ says Lyneth. ‘We didn’t think the problem would be here.’
But it was Wesley’s good advice that ultimately saved his fiancée. As a former ambulance worker, he had told Lyneth never to worry about calling paramedics.
‘People get all kinds of things and sometimes don’t think they should call an ambulance. But I’d told her that the crews don’t mind, they’ll check things out. It’s the best advice I ever gave.’
When the crews arrived Lyneth was losing consciousness and had to be rushed to hospital where it was discovered she had suffered a tear in an artery causing a blockage.
The heart attack came completely our of the blue. Earlier in the evening Lyneth had been having a Skype chat with her fiance and everything seemed normal. She had no history of heart trouble and lived healthily.
Wesley heard the next morning and rushed home from Iraq. ‘It was the longest journey I’d ever taken. There was a stop in Dubai for four hours and I was just pacing. I felt helpless.’
He is now staying at home and has landed a job in the cardiac unit at Queen Alexandra Hospital where Lyneth was treated.
‘I’m really pleased, it feels like I’m giving something back,’ he says.
But six months ago Wesley wasn’t thinking about future employment as he watched Lyneth in intensive care with drips coming out of her arms and machines keeping her alive.
At one point her family was told she was unlikely to live but with a mixture of treatment, including the use of an experimental drug, she pulled through and amazed everyone.
Lyneth says: ‘I was called the “miracle with the nails” because I was wearing this nail varnish that changed colour with the heat. I had doctors coming up to shake my hand. I think the big thing was that I had died but come through this with no brain damage.
‘It was amazing that I was alive, but also that I was having conversations with people.’
Full recovery was another matter and Lyneth had to return to hospital several times – but that wasn’t going to stop her arranging a wedding.
She says: ‘We were engaged but it was always in the future. But when I came out of the coma everyone was saying “you’ll have to set a date”. And my best friends said they would do the wedding for me.
‘I’d always said “as long as I don’t die a spinster I’ll be all right”, so we thought let’s do this.’
The couple had always envisaged a small wedding for about 50 people, but that suddenly leaped to more than 100 guests, including colleagues at Warblington School.
Lyneth’s closest friends Lynn Evans, Tracy Scrase, Anna Walsh and Lucinda Consiglio helped while she was having further treatment.
‘I’d order things from my hospital bed and they’d be bringing in dresses and things for me to look at,’ she says laughing.
Bethan organised the church, friend and sailmaker Sandy Couch at Capricorn Canvas made Lyneth’s dress and Pauline Smith, of 19 Fourteas Tearoom in Havant, organised the reception – a vintage-style high tea, complete with cake stands and bunting.
In keeping with the vintage theme, Lyneth and Wesley wobbled away from the church on a tandem bicycle.
Lyneth is grateful to all her family and friends but the biggest thanks goes to her husband, who has been there through every stage of recovery.
‘When I came out of the coma and realised what I’d been through I felt invincible.
‘But that changed quite quickly and I still feel very vulnerable. Wesley makes me feel safer though – and he’s done so much for me. I couldn’t walk, wash myself or do much at all and he had to take on a lot.
‘He is the most amazing bloke and whatever is mine is his.
‘I’ve realised that Wesley loves me more than I could ever hope anyone would love me. I don’t know what I would have done without him.’