THE reason behind a charitable donation from a North Wales food festival to a Merseyside hospital is a heart-warming story of a local businesswoman who says the centre helped save her life.

Jo Smith, from Wrexham, was transferred to the Walton Centre in Liverpool after suffering a brain haemorrhage nine years ago.

She recalls that, whilst driving in the town, it felt like someone had ‘hit her on the back of the head with a baseball bat’.

She said: “I started to think about the stroke prevention advert on the TV, the one where the woman starts to show a flame in her head, the advert still gives me the creeps.

“Following the advice from the advert, I started to push my fingers and nails into my face, I could only feel very slight feelings. I kept raising my arms above my head, and I kept shouting to see if my speech was slurred. I drove home, which sounds odd, but I was frightened to stop the car and get out as I thought I would not be able to stand up and people may think I was drunk.”

Jo said that, when her husband Rob arrived home from work, he immediately knew something was wrong and dialled 999. An on-call doctor came out to see Jo, initially thought it was a migraine, and gave her some strong pain killers and advised her to call 999 if things get worse.

Although feeling that something wasn’t right, Jo decided to return to work the following week.

Unable to walk in a straight line, or more than 10 steps without stopping, she went to see GP who quickly referred her to Wrexham Maelor Hospital with a suspected brain haemorrhage.

After undergoing a series of tests it was confirmed that Jo had a bleed on the brain and was transferred to the Walton Centre in Fazakerley, Liverpool.

“The Walton Centre were fantastic with me, as they are with all the other people they treat”, explained Jo.

Just five years after suffering a brain haemorrhage, Jo needed treatment from the centre again when she began having spasms in her right arm. Specialists later told Jo she had epilepsy, causing her to lose her driving licence for 12 months until the spasms were under control.

After her treatment, Jo and Rob wanted to give something back to the centre and used their involvement with the Hope Mountain Hike as a basis for fundraising. They have since raised thousands of pounds for the centre – with £20,000 in the last year alone - and a further £1,000 after the successful Wrexham Food and Drink Festival.

She said: “Some people may ask why the Wrexham Food Festival has chosen the Walton Centre as a charity to support. The reason is simple, they support the North Wales community with people suffering with neurological issues, and as someone from Wrexham who is here with their help, and part of the committee it is a wonderful fit.”

Mrs Smith, who is a director of the revamped Wrexham Food and Drink Festival, launched her artisan company ‘Little Welsh Cheese’ in 2014 and has expanded to launch cookery workshops this year.