WEDDINGS are a special event in any couple's life but for one Malvern bride and bridegroom the day held a particular significance.

Eighteen months prior to her wedding day, Rachel Wiggins, nee Alderson, was on the brink of death.

Rachel, aged 24, is fully recovered now and looking forward to a future with her new husband Robert, but in November 1998 she was hooked up to a life support machine and her chances of survival were described as "slim".

She was in hospital for a month fighting for her life after septicaemia had set in following a series of operations and her mother, Elizabeth, said it was "touch and go".

"It all stemmed from an operation she had to have her appendix out when she was 21" said Mrs Alderson, who lives in Newland.

"A year later she started having stomach pains and they discovered she had adhesions. She had three operations for adhesions and bowel stoppages and then this led to septicaemia and multiple organ failure.

"She was on full life support for her heart, lungs and kidneys and my husband and I stayed at the hospital for seven days and nights," said Mrs Alderson.

"Nobody says very much but they just said, 'you shouldn't go home'. Everything had closed down and she was given a broad spectrum of antibiotics which just knocked her out."

Mrs Alderson said there was a real chance that Rachel could have died.

"In my own head I'd planned her funeral and I remember Willy Campbell from Avenue Veterinary Surgeon, where Rachel worked, saying she's going to have to be a fighter to get through this and he told all his staff to come in and say goodbye," said Mrs Alderson.

But miraculously Rachel survived and on New Year's Day she was allowed back home.

She and her family are all regular churchgoers and Mrs Alderson said the support and prayers really helped her family through the trauma.

"I don't care what anybody says, the power of prayer helped us through. People were praying for us in so many places, even in Ireland and Israel, and she had constant visitors from our church, St Leonards in Newland and from the Rev John Green and I want to thank everybody for that," she said.

Now, living in Blaisdon in the Forest of Dean and working as a raptor keeper at Newent Bird of Prey centre, Rachel said it all feels like a dream to her.

"I don't remember much about it because I was sedated for three weeks but I think my worst moment was when I tried to move again. I was down to 6 stone, my muscles had wasted away and I thought I was never going to walk again.

"But I've always said the reason I lived was because I wanted to get married!" she said.

Her marriage to Robert, a nurse in occupational health, was an emotional and momentous day for all Rachel's friends and family.

"To think it all culminated in this wedding was wonderful!" said Mrs Alderson.