It was a birthday Kevin McNamara will never forget – and he was determined to remember the ambulance crew who saved his life that day.

The morning of April 11 this year began like any other – the 54-year-old, of Great How, St Ives, got up at about 6am and went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea.

Little did he know that within seconds he would be fighting for his life.

He said: “I sat down and, bang, there was the heart attack. I just felt a pain in both arms – I thought then I was having a heart attack. I called my wife down from upstairs and she rang up the operator.”

On the other end of the line was Maurice Barlow, a call handler working from Norwich.

Mr Barlow said: “The thing I remember is his wife Beverley was fairly calm and she was quite pleased I wasn't going to hang up on her.”

Five minutes later, paramedic Bethany Metcalfe and emergency care assistant Shaun Baker arrived. After giving him an ECG, they identified there was a high chance he was having a heart attack. They gave him ­medication, including pain relief, in the ambulance on the way to Papworth Hospital.

Mr McNamara said: “I was fully awake – it was a case of just sitting and concentrating and keeping alive. I was aware of them but I couldn't see them – I couldn't make out their faces.”

Doctors discovered a main artery was blocked and a stent was inserted to keep it open. He spent time in a high dependency unit before going home the ­following Tuesday.

Since then, he has slowly made a recovery and is now able to keep active by walking his dog.

Mr Baker said: “In heart attack cases speed is of the essence really.

“In this part of the world we have got the best hospital in the country, in my opinion, for those conditions.”

Just weeks before, Mr McNamara suffered two blood clots in his heart for which he underwent an operation, although his consultant has told him it was unrelated to the heart attack.

He met the team who saved his life on Friday to give them a card, cake and biscuits, and two cheques for £50 which will either go towards the station fund or to a charity.

Miss Metcalfe said: “It is really nice to know that Kevin is okay and he has made a good recovery. It's nice to know that we do make a difference. Often you don't get to see the difference that you make.”

Mr McNamara said: “They might see me walking down the street and say they saved my life last week but I wouldn't know who they were.

“My outlook is pretty good – I'm not a victim of a heart attack, I'm a survivor of a heart attack thanks to the ambulance service.”