When our colleague Gail Jones collapsed with what turned out to be a double brain aneurysm her friend and manager Hannah Evans calmly stayed by her side after phoning for an ambulance – and she's been supporting her through every stage of recovery ever since.
Gail, pictured here on the left, had a nine-hour brain operation at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, and further surgery during a six-week stay in hospital due to complications.
She lost her speech and mobility at first, but is now making a great recovery and is back at work.
Hannah has been there for her throughout, whether bringing pyjamas and toiletries to the hospital, looking after Gail's Staffordshire bull terrier Hunter – overcoming a fear of dogs in the process – or keeping her spirits up by calling round to see her as she recovered.
Gail, who's now back at work on optical and pharmacy at our Swindon Haydon store, said: "Hannah so went above and beyond, I can't believe what's she's done for me. It's amazing. I really can't thank her enough."
The moment that changed Gail's life took place on November 26 last year.
Gail, who's worked at the store for 11 years, said: "I was helping Hannah out on front end that day and I was absolutely fine. She was giving me the plan for the day and I just dropped down to the floor in sheer agony. I couldn't see. I went deaf. I had amazing head and neck pain. I was being sick and I couldn't move. It was horrible. It just came completely out of the blue. No warning. No nothing!
"Hannah phoned for an ambulance and got the pharmacist over too. Hannah stayed with me all the time while we were waiting for the ambulance and was comforting me."
Gail was first taken to Swindon Hospital, but because her blood pressure "was right through the roof" they sent a scan image to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford who arranged for her to be transferred there immediately.
Gail said: "Hannah came up to the hospital in Swindon and she'd brought me pyjamas, a toothbrush and essentials. She realised that I had Hunter my Staffordshire Bull Terrier at home and no one to take of him as I've got no family close by, so she took it upon herself to look after him as well. She put all her plans on hold."
Gail had a nine-hour brain operation for the double aneurysm – the first the hospital had seen in 25 years – but had to have further surgery due to complications.
"They nearly lost me three times. I'm so lucky to be alive. I wasn't due to be in work the day it happened, as it was my day off, but I'm glad I was. If I'd have been at home I probably wouldn't be here right now. It's really bizarre – I was in the right place at the right time.
"I'm so lucky as I'm absolutely fine apart from a bit of tiredness and short-term memory loss. But it's all coming back together. The surgeons there were brilliant."
Hannah has been supporting her throughout her recovery. Gail said: "She was constantly on the phone to me and now I'm back home she pops in to see me. She even came to see me on New Year's Day as she knew I'd be on my own.
"I'm just so grateful. Thanks to her I'm alive basically. She didn't have to do any of that. She did so much and was so caring. It was such a kind natured thing to do. And she's been so supportive with me coming back to work too, as have all the team."
Customer trading manager Hannah, who's been at the store for 11 years, said: "Gail is such an amazing lady and is always there for other people, so it was just right that I was there as much I could be for her. It's just brilliant that she has recovered so well and is back at work.
"On the day it happened I was walking alongside Gail by the checkout bank and she literally just dropped to her knees. And I was like 'Come on, stop messing around, get up' but she said she couldn't. It was horrible. I called an ambulance straight away and they asked me to get her to move her arms as I think they thought she was having a stroke, but she could do everything fine."
Although Hannah has a fear of dogs, she felt she had to take care of Hunter for Gail.
She said: "When I first saw him, I thought he was the biggest thing in the entire world, but he was so friendly. So lovely." And now they are firm friends!
Store manager Ian Wallis said: "Hannah has been amazing with the support she has given to Gail, going above and beyond in my opinion. The kindness and compassion she has shown from taking care of Gail in store to supporting her at home is truly inspirational."