A former mayor of Carlisle has revealed that she came so close to death, her family were starting to plan her funeral.

Six weeks ago Mary Styth suffered a serious fall in the street, resulting in a life-threatening bleed on her brain.

It was so serious that the 84-year-old was given just hours to live.

Yet the long-serving Labour councillor, who is now recovering at home, has amazed everyone with her miraculous recovery.

Following her experience, Mrs Styth has paid tribute to the city’s Cumberland Infirmary and its “amazing” staff.

The accident happened outside The Salon in London Road, as she was about to go in for her regular appointment.

“There were four steps. I went up one, then two, then the third step somehow wasn’t there. I remember thinking where’s the step, but that’s the last thing I remember,” she said.

A passing police officer saw her fall and rushed to help, alerting salon staff and other family members who were inside.

Mrs Styth was rushed to hospital, where doctors identified not one but three subarachnoid haemorrhages – bleeding in the area around the brain, which can result in death or brain damage.

As medics struggled to stop the bleeding, her family – some of who flew in from Ireland – were told to prepare for the worst.

However, after starting to make initial plans for her funeral, her relatives were first amazed to see her pull through, then go on to be discharged just five weeks after the fall. Even hospital staff with many years experience told her they couldn’t believe her recovery.

Mrs Syth, who was cared for on the infirmary’s Elm B ward, said it is all down to the hospital and its staff.

“Thirty hours later I was aware of my surroundings. From then the staff at the hospital just cared for me, and I mean really and genuinely cared. I had the most wonderful experience. There wasn’t a single person that didn’t care. That makes the difference,” she said.

“I want to pay tribute particularly to the healthcare staff who are there 24/7, with a smile on their faces. I never once heard them complain that they were tired. They are on the ward caring for patients all the time, and they hold the whole hospital together.

“It wasn’t just them. It was every member of staff that I came into contact with – nurses, doctors, specialists, porters. I had to have X-rays, CT scans, you name it - the staff in all of those departments were just wonderful and made me feel so welcome.

“I’m not saying there weren’t hiccups, but they were unsustainable hiccups. If you had to wait, there was always a good explanation. They deliver all of that under the most difficult of circumstances – with a shortage of staff, money and equipment.”

Mrs Styth, who has held senior posts overseeing the local NHS and social services, added: “I was there five weeks in total. During that time I did my own silent audit, and I can tell you that hospital came out on top.

“I want people to stop moaning about the hospital and start being grateful for what its staff are delivering.”

Mrs Styth lives in Morton with husband Jim, 88. They have two daughters, Julie, who works at the hospital, and events coordinator Carol, plus five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

She was first elected as a councillor in 1970, serving on both the city and county council between then and 2011.

She was Mayor of Carlisle in 2010/11 and was made an Honorary Fellow of the University of Cumbria, for a lifetime commitment to education, health and social care.

Although she is retired from most of her roles now, she still acts as an advocate for older people.

As well as thanking the hospital, Mrs Styth said she was also incredibly touched by all of the kind messages she has received since the accident, and promised they will all see her again soon.

“I just want to say a big thank you to all of the wonderful people who have supported me.

“My two daughters in particular, my family and all of the friends who have sent kind messages, cards, gifts and flowers. I’m so grateful,” she added.