After suffering a brain haemorrhage which left her blind and practically housebound, Debbie Underhill was just grateful that she was still alive.

On being discharged from more than three weeks in the neurological unit at Southampton General Hospital, she admits to suffering bouts of depression, and "just sat and stared at a wall for six weeks thinking 'oh my God'."

Debbie underwent two operations to try and improve her vision, and suddenly decided she wanted to start painting - a hobby which has not only proved hugely therapeutic, but which she credits for saving her from becoming a victim.

"If I didn't paint, all I would do is housework or watch TV," says Debbie, who lives with husband Martyn in a charming cottage in Wimborne.

"I've gone from working full time - I was a health and social care co-ordinator for Dorset Healthcare, ensuring that nurses and social workers worked together for the benefit of the patient.

"I'm quite a strong person. I thought 'I could give up here, or I could fight'. I wasn't ever going to be a victim.

"I'm so much better off than other people that never came out of hospital, or have no memory."

Debbie suffered a sub-arachnoid brain haemorrhage, caused by a burst aneurysm in her brain, in October 2016, on a night out with Martyn. She remains forever grateful that they had got a taxi into Wimborne rather than staying at home that evening, as the ambulance would not have reached their secluded home in time to save her life.

"I got out of the taxi and just collapsed," she says.

"Martyn was holding me up against a wall, I was unconscious and fitting. I then stopped breathing. At the hospital they told Martyn and my daughter Jess I was probably going to die. Then they said I could be in a vegetative state and could lose my memory.

"I was on life support for five days in Southampton. Martyn kept a diary and took photos because he knew I wouldn't remember. Martyn suffered more than me - we had only been married two years and it was traumatic for him and Jess to watch and wait.

‘’At one point there were seven of us in intensive care at one and I was the only one that didn’t die.”

Debbie could not see at all when she woke up, as she had bled into her optic nerves. Two operations to remove the blood helped a little, and Debbie then had cataracts removed, but still struggles with her sight.

"This is as good as it gets," she says. "Through one eye, my vision has things cut off and the other eye the vision has got holes in it. They've put prescription lenses into my eyes. That helped, but it won't get any better."

Initially, Debbie could not be left alone at all - Martyn even installed a camera in the cottage so he could keep an eye on her when he walked the dogs. She still can't drive, which means she is housebound to a degree. She also struggled with agoraphobia, and still has a dislike of walking into crowded rooms, as she finds it hard to see faces clearly.

But painting has become her saviour, and her brightly coloured works are slowly making a name for themselves. A dozen of her pictures are on show at the Global Art Limited gallery, above Bridge House Antiques in Longham and others will soon be hung on the walls of the Millstream Bistro at Wimborne's Walford Mill.

Debbie, 60, plays down the recognition, however, insisting she is just glad to have a hobby.

"I did O-level art and always enjoyed it," she remembers, "but I used to be better at sketching. I started small, doing flowers, which was really difficult because I had to use a great big magnifying glass. I can't do straight lines and I even find it hard to do my signature on my pictures - it looks like a child's handwriting.

"Then I tried out colours - I didn't have to be exact, I could dab. I used cotton buds and sponges, hammers and grouters - I can't use brushes very well. Most of my stuff is about perception."

Debbie now works from a converted summerhouse in her peaceful garden. Martyn had to lay down decking to widen the pathway to the work room, after Debbie repeatedly missed her footing on the uneven ground and fell. But she insisted on staying at her beloved cottage, where she felt safe.

"This takes your confidence away, you feel embarrassed because you're not the same as you were," she explains. "But I'm gradually getting there. I do enjoy it. I just would have died of boredom - I can't sit and do nothing.

"I've sold the odd one to family and friends but it's not about business, it's about therapy. Most of all I’m grateful to those around me as we laugh a lot and they treat me the same as they always did.”