WHEN bodybuilder Ian Wakefield woke up in the middle of the night feeling unwell, the last thing on his mind was that he was having a heart attack ... and that he would soon be having to thank medical staff for saving his life.

The 65-year-old from Godmanchester is a regular at the gym and said had never been ill in his life.

But two weeks ago he was wakened by a tightness in his chest.

Unable to shake the pain, he phoned Hinchingbrooke Hospital and was told to go in. The retired diesel engineer refused an ambulance, instead asking his wife Helen to drive him there.

Upon arrival, Mr Wakefield, who lives in Cambridge Terrace, was strapped to an ECG machine and within minutes was being rushed to Papworth Hospital for an emergency operation.

He says the fast work of the doctors and nurses at both hospitals saved his life.

"It was a matter of minutes from the nurse at Hinchingbrooke saying I was having a heart attack to going to Papworth. Those doctors and nurses, I just could not speak highly enough of them.

"I broke my left arm once but I have not even had a cold in two years. I do a lot of exercise. I was bench-pressing only a few days before the attack.

"The nurse connected me up to this machine and started getting a read-out. Three seconds later she ripped it off and walked out. She had gone down and told the doctor I was having a major heart attack.

"Three doctors then came in and said 'We need to get you to Papworth'. They took me out of the ambulance, into a lift and straight into the operating theatre.

"A main artery in my heart had blocked up."

Doctors used primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PPCI), a technique in which a balloon catheter is inserted into the main artery via a guidance line in the thigh to clear the blockage and insert a stent.

Mr Wakefield was given a local anaesthetic, meaning he was awake during the whole procedure.

He said: "As a diesel engineer I have worked with valves and pumps. You forget you have got one inside your body and that pump is your heart."

Within three hours, Mr Wakefield was out of the operating theatre and two days later he was home.

Although on a daily cocktail of pills, including beta-blockers and aspirin, Mr Wakefield says he is feeling better than ever.

He said: "I feel like a spring chicken. For two or three days I was quite bad because my body was getting used to the drugs."

Dr Sarah Clarke, consultant cardiologist and clinical director of cardiac services, said: "If someone thinks they have the symptoms of a heart attack, they must call 999 for an ambulance as soon as possible."

n If you want to show your appreciation publicly to thank the NHS for your care, send a letter or e-mail to The Hunts Post, 30 High Street, Huntingdon PE29 3TB or editor@huntspost.co.uk