Kelly Watson says she was “basically dead” when her shocked loved ones found her in bed the morning she was supposed to go on a family holiday.
Miss Watson had stopped breathing and had to be put in a coma as it became clear she would need to undergo transplant operations to receive a new heart and lungs.
This was in 2015, and she spent the next two years too weak to even climb the stairs as she all but gave up hope of a donor being found to help her lead a normal life.
On Christmas Day in 2017 she received a call which was to change everything.
And now, almost three years on, she is hoping to raise awareness of organ donation alongside money for the hospital which helped save her life.
The 32-year-old said: “I was born with pulminary hypertension, a heart defect, but I lived a mostly normal life growing up with no medication and only one bad spell during my childhood.
“My parents were told I might not make adulthood but there has been lots of developments since, and it wasn’t until I was 22 that I began being generally ill and coughing blood.”
A stay in hospital in her early 20s confirmed that only one lung was working correctly.
A few years later, things took a further frightening turn for the worse for Miss Watson, her partner Richard Noble, dad Steven, elder brother Steven and cousin Gemma.
She added: “In 2015 I was living in Peterhead with my dad we were meant to be going on holiday with my brother, his partner and their two kids.
“My brother came to pick me up and was surprised not to find me ready as always.
“He walked in to find me in my bed, blue. I was dead basically. I was not breathing.
“He tried to resuscitate me and I was rushed to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where I was in a coma than spent two months recovering. I was put on the list for a heart and double lung transplant.”
And so began her three year wait for a life-saving call.
“When you first go on the list you are really anxious, and even now I won’t go anywhere without my phone. The first six months, all I thought about was waiting for the call, then I went to college because I realised if it never came I wanted to live before I died.
“I didn’t think I would get the transplant and spent as much time as I could with my sunshines – my nieces and nephews.”
But her call did come, at 7pm on Christmas day 2017.
Miss Watson’s mobile rang as she was picking up her German Shepherd puppy Ruaridh.
She rushed home to collect her suitcase, packed three years before, for an ambulance journey to Aberdeen and a helicopter transfer to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.
With her partner offshore and cousin 100 miles away in Laurencekirk for Christmas, she made the journey alone and spent the hours before the operation calling her loved ones.
“Flying over Aberdeen on Christmas night with all the tree lights was quite magical really,” she said.
“At the hospital I was trying to call everybody as I thought it might be my last goodbye and it was important to tell them I loved them in case I could never say it again.
“I was just being wheeled into theatre when my family bounded up the corridor having driven down. They got there just in time, you couldn’t make it up but it was Christmas day after all.”
After her successful operation, Miss Watson spent three months in hospital learning to talk, eat and drink again and since then she says it’s been “up, up, up”.
She added: “I could collapse walking up a flight of stairs before but one year after the transplant I did the Race For Life in memory of my late sister-in-law and now I enjoy long walks with Ruaridh every day.”
Please have the conversation with your family
The law surrounding organ and tissue donation in Scotland is changing to an opt-out system from March next year.
The amendment means that if you have not recorded a donation decision, you will be considered to have agreed to be a donor when you die.
Miss Watson, spurred on since having just learnt who her donor was, is nonetheless reminding people to have make their families aware of their wishes.
“The opt-out will mean more people become donors,” the Fraserburgh fundraiser said.
“But the hospital will only go through with it if your family consent, so you must have that conversation.”
“I found out just last week that my donor was a 54-year-old female,” she said.
“I just kept putting it off asking as I thought it was going to be harder.”
Miss Watson has since written a letter to her donor’s family and says in time she’d like to meet them, if they are agreeable.
“No words seemed enough to thank them,” she added.
“It’s hard to find the right words to explain what they mean to you. Even though I have not met them – their loved one kept me alive. Their heart is beating in me.”
With that in mind she’s asking people to support her ongoing bonus ball fundraiser and upcoming Christmas advent giveaway online, featuring dozens of prizes donated by north-east businesses.
Details of her fundraiser, in aid of Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, can be found by searching Kelly Watson or Northeast Scotland 20 on Facebook.