Jean Hancox, 61, is looking forward to Christmas at home with her family in Darfield after almost losing her life to respiratory failure.
She had to undergo a life-saving tracheostomy procedure, which involves creating an opening in the neck in order to place a tube into a person’s windpipe, allowing air to enter the lungs.
And tragically, while she was unconscious in hospital, her 90-year-old father George died from a non-Covid-related illness.
Nurses applauded her as she finally left intensive care this week in a wheelchair after her three-month stay.
Her nightmare started back in early September when she was at home enjoying time with her sister, Wendy, who was visiting from Coventry.
Jean suddenly began to feel ill and started struggling to breathe.
She said: “The next thing I knew I was in an ambulance rushing up to Barnsley Hospital’s accident and emergency department, but then I didn’t know anything.
“All I remember is a nurse saying that they were going to put me to sleep now and that I would feel loads better when you I woke up.
“I actually woke up ten days later and had undergone a tracheostomy to save my life after respiratory failure and pneumonia.”
Jean spent weeks under sedation having ‘weird dreams’ and drifting in and out of consciousness.
She lost the power of speech and needed expert care from the hospital’s rehabilitation and speech therapy teams.
Eventually, Jean was able to use social media video platform app FaceTime to see her daughter, Simone, although she had to lip-read what her mum was saying.
“It was frustrating,” said Jean. “There were times when I thought I was not going to make it out of hospital but the nurses said one day I would and I became determined to be out by Christmas.
“The staff told me my respiratory failure was largely due to smoking, so of course I have stopped but I haven’t even wanted a cigarette after what’s happened to me.”
Her determination paid off and now she is back at home with Simone who, during her mum’s long absence, completely refurbished the family bathroom and also landscaped the garden ready for Jean’s return.
Jean, who has worked as a secretary at B Braun Medical in Chapeltown for 23 years, still has a way to go before full recovery.
She added: “Hopefully, I can put this year behind me. I also just want to thank all the doctors and nurses who looked after me as they really did save my life.”
Jean’s story has prompted health bosses to issue another warning to smokers in the town, which is part of a borough-wide initiative to reduce dependency on nicotine.
Just under 20 per cent of Barnsley’s residents are now classed as smokers - almost one in five adults - the 36th-highest in the country for prevalence.
A spokesperson for NHS Yorkshire Smokefree added: “We are working alongside the government initiative to help you stop smoking for good.
“Looking after our health has never been so important, especially our lungs and respiratory system.
“We know how much damage smoking does to the lungs, making it harder for us to breathe.”