TEN years ago Dr Maya Campbell’s life changed forever.

In April 2009 she suffered a heart attack and went into cardiac arrest.

Doctors battled to save her life and she was in a coma for two months.

She was subsequently diagnosed with heart failure and has an inoperable aneurysm.

But along with her physical health suffering Dr Campbell, a research scientist, wasn’t prepared for the mental health problems it would bring.

Following her diagnosis she suffered crippling trauma, depression and anxiety.

Inspired by her own experience she set about finding a way to help patients with heart conditions.

Out of her perseverance came the Heartfulness project which promotes caring for both our physical and emotional health.

First piloted in London, the project is now coming to Colchester.

Dr Campbell, who studied psychology after her heart attack, said: “For the first few years after my heart attack I went through cardiac rehabilitation which was good but my heart started to deteriorate.

“It started to get worse every year. My heart was failing and I was losing five per cent of function a year.”

Because of her background in research Dr Campbell looked to how she could help herself.

What she found was by using mindfulness – an awareness of ourselves and the world around us – she was able to ease her symptoms of depression.

She said: “I looked into emotions and how this can help. The physical heart and emotional heart are connected.

“There was and there is still is fear, there is also depression and anxiety. What I found the most beneficial was mindfulness and meditation.

“Even though it was very difficult at that point – I was very traumatised after my cardiac arrest – it helped. I couldn’t tell you why back then but I felt it helped and I kept going.

“Although I was still depressed it allowed me to step back from it a bit.

“I now don’t suffer from depression anymore.

“I realised it could help other people and that is how I started. I talked with people and psychologists and we got together and started the project.”

A pilot was held with Kings College London in 2016.

Six participants were recruited from the general public with the aid of the British Heart Foundation and heart support groups in London.

The course consists of a ten-week program of the participants learning the skills of mindfulness, compassion and mindful movements based on tai chi.

And the results were outstanding for all involved with it showing a decrease in depression and in the emotional impact heart disease has on the quality of patients lives.

Patients reported they were able to be discharged from cardiology units, no longer being bed bound and no longer needing operations.

Dr Campbell, 51, added: “It is brilliant and I am so pleased it is able to help other people. It helps people to self care and learn the skills to do this. It reduces anxiety and fear surrounding the condition.

“The health resources in this country are stretched and this is about being able to help people without having to go into hospital.

“The last place I want to be is in hospital. I think there is an increased awareness of us needing this type of thing.

“Being able to use emotions to help heart disease is not new – I wish more people talked to me about it.

“I want to raise awareness that there is something which can help.

“A lot of what I am doing is about giving people choices. I talk to people with conditions and find they don’t know what to do.

“I want to give people the chance to help themselves.

“It is not nice to have a heart condition and it engenders a lot of fear.”

For Dr Campbell moving out of London to Colchester has also helped her condition and seen her take up Nordic walking.

“I always said I would never move out of London. I was born there – I am a Londoner,” she said.

“What I have discovered since making the move is how much more peaceful and healthy it is than London.

“London has become very polluted and I could tell the difference when I went back.

“From that perspective it has been wonderful. It is less frantic, everybody in London seems to be rushing around.

“It is a really nice change and people take time to talk to me.”

The ten week course will start on January 22 at Headgate Theatre, Colchester.

It will be held every Tuesday until March 26 from 12.30pm to 3.15pm.

The full course if £280 and £240 for concessions.

To book visit www.mindfulnessandwellbeing.net/courses.