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'My work colleague helped save my life' says teacher after recovering from heart attack

PUBLISHED: 11:58 31 May 2019 | UPDATED: 11:58 31 May 2019

Nell Burnett and Mark Cornish  Picture: Submitted

Nell Burnett and Mark Cornish Picture: Submitted

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Just a year after sufferering a heart attack, an Ipswich teacher is set to take on epic charity challenge.

Mark Foster, Nell Burnett, Mark Cornish and Greg Watson  Picture: SubmittedMark Foster, Nell Burnett, Mark Cornish and Greg Watson Picture: Submitted

Mark Cornish is raising money for The British Heart Foundation next month by cycling from London to Brighton. The maths teacher who works for Suffolk New College will be joined by two of his work colleagues as they take on the 54 mile challenge on June 16.

Having only taken up cycling last October, completing the bike ride will be a victory in itself. Yet when you realise that 45-year-old Mr Cornish from Witnesham had a heart attack just 15 months ago, his achievement becomes slightly more remarkable.

Here he takes up the story.

"It was your average cold and crisp February morning and I was walking through Alexandra Park in Ipswich when suddenly it felt like a switch was turned off and I couldn't breathe. I fell to the floor. Somebody walked passed me but they didn't stop. I could see their feet but I couldn't speak to ask for help.

"I thought to myself that I've got to do something quickly. So I hauled myself up and somehow made it to the college. As soon as I got to the main reception area I collapsed through the doors.

"It's all a bit hazy after that. I remember seeing the first aider at the college (Nell Burnett). She quickly called an ambulance and was a woman of action. Her husband had been through a similar situation. She helped save my life. I owe her a lot. She made a real difference.

"Eventually the ambulance arrived and I was taken to Papworth Hospital. My wonderful wife Denise followed the ambulance to Cambridge. I was immediately rushed into surgery and it turned out that one of my arteries was blocked. I was fitted with a stent. Then they found another problem. So I had a second stent fitted and I was in hospital for about a week.

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"I was told that if I had got to Papworth 20 minutes later, the outcome would have been very different. At one point during all of this I thought I was going to die.

"I had about 10 weeks away from work after the heart attack and life has changed for me now.

"I've lost four stone in weight, I eat well and I'm really active. I haven't got a bucket list as such but I want to go to every Moto GP event in the world. Recently I went to Texas with my amazing wife and friends.

"I now work part time and I've started to indulge in my childhood passion for birdwatching. I like the peace of it all and being at one with nature.

"I also took advantage of a bike to work scheme and started cycling.

"My work colleagues have been very supportive. They came to visit me during my recovery and Greg Watson (carpentry lecturer at the college) cycles to work with me every day. Another colleague (Mark Foster) has actually bought a bike and they will both be joining me on a charity bike ride to Brighton in aid of the British Heart Foundation in June.

"I'm glad to be supporting this charity. I feel really passionate about them. My family has a history of heart problems and they do so much research to find the best treatments. I've even left some money for them in my will. You just never know when the work they do might benefit you.

"All in all, this whole experience just shows you that you never know when things are going to happen to you. My priorities have changed - now I just want to live my life - and by doing this challenge, me and my colleagues all joke that our hearts are all in the right place."

Mark's team is called The Cornish cycling pasties. If you would like to support mark and the team, you can donate money at Just Giving.

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