A TEACHING assistant has been praised after rushing to help the seriously-ill mother of a pupil who had failed to turn up at school.

Kimberley Howard was found struggling to breathe in her home by Wendy Shaw, who had become concerned after phoning to investigate the whereabouts of her six-year-old daughter Casey-Leigh Dodds.

Miss Howard only lives around the corner from Cockton Hill Infants School, in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, so Mrs Shaw did not have far to run to check on her. When she arrived she found the 25-year-old struggling to breathe and talk.

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With her permission, Mrs Shaw rang for an ambulance and within minutes paramedics arrived and rushed her off to Darlington Memorial Hospital where test revealed she had a hole in her lung.

A week later she was transferred to James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, for surgery and she remained there for treatment for a further seven days.

“When she (Mrs Shaw) got there I was in agony,” said Miss Howard. “I had been in pain all night and kept waking up every half an hour. I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what.

“I couldn’t take a full intake of breath it was hurting that much.

“The doctors have said if I had been there much longer I would have collapsed. I told my daughter (Casey-Leigh) Mrs Shaw saved my life. I am so grateful.”

Mrs Shaw said: “When I rang up I couldn’t work out whether she was crying or struggling to breathe. She sounded awful so I knew I had to go round.

"As I ran out the door I thought surely this is not part of my job description.

“When I got there she was rubbing her chest. A few of the neighbours said she was having a panic attack but I thought it looked like more than that to me. I think she thought I was coming to collect Casey-Leigh to make sure she was at school but I was just worried about her.

“I don’t know how but she had managed to get Casey-Leigh dressed for school.”

After the ambulance had left, Mrs Shaw arranged for relatives to look after Casey-Leigh and her younger sister Ashlee, four.

She added: “I am so pleased to see her on the mend.”