Fifteen months ago, in the back of an ambulance on the M11, Dean Perrett's heart stopped for 36 minutes as a result of a cardiac arrest.
Now, the football manager is raising money to thank the lifesavers who brought him back from the brink of death.
Throughout February, Dean is taking on a series of 5km walks in aid of Essex and Herts Air Ambulance Trust. He plans to hike a total of 60 miles (96.5km) – the equivalent distance of a round trip from his home off West Road in Sawbridgeworth to Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, where he was nursed back to health.
Dean said that while 5km might seem like a short distance, for him it is a monumental feat.
The Harlow Town Ladies Football Club manager, who has also worked with Bishop's Stortford Swifts FC, has gradually been building up his strength since his near-death experience in September 2019.
That day, Dean, who was a fit and healthy 45-year-old police officer, returned home from work in Hatfield. "I'd been suffering in the day with chest pain, but then it hit me like a ton of bricks," he said.
Alfie, his elder son, who was 18 at the time, recognised that his dad needed an ambulance so he dialled 999. His younger boy Joseph, then a 17-year-old Leventhorpe School student, was playing for Sawbridgeworth in an FA Youth Cup tie and did not find out that his father was gravely ill until he got home later that night.
Dean's partner, Bev Forbes, joined him in the ambulance which blue-lighted them to the cutting-edge Cambridge hospital, while her daughter Emily, then a 17-year-old student at Birchwood High School, followed in a police car.
Two medics from Essex and Herts Air Ambulance, the local helicopter emergency medical service, caught up to Dean's ambulance in a rapid response vehicle.
He went into cardiac arrest, a condition which can lead to the brain becoming starved of oxygen. "It's dangerous for any amount of time," Dean said. "In four to six minutes you can be brain dead. I was out for 36 minutes but they didn't give up."
The doctors battled to save his life – a fight which continued at Royal Papworth's intensive care unit.
"When I woke up after 30 hours in a coma, they didn't know how my brain was going to react," said Dean.
While he was unable to remember much about his ordeal, he has been able to make a recovery. Under the care of a consultant cardiologist, he has had stents fitted in his heart and attends regular check-ups.
"Everything has come back to me now," he said. "I remember being in the back of an ambulance asking if I could go to sleep."
Dean hoped to raise £250 for Essex and Herts Air Ambulance by walking 5km each weekday in February, but within 24 hours of launching his JustGiving online donation page he had smashed £1,000. His fundraising total has surpassed £2,000.
On January 25, he celebrated his 47th birthday. While the lockdown has prevented him from throwing a party, he is happy for the gift of being able to enjoy life with Bev, his sons and his stepchildren.
To sponsor Dean, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/dean-perrett-1.