“It came as a complete surprise,” says Clive Small when referring to his heart attack in November last year, “But luckily I got to a doctor in time and now I’m back both physically and mentally. It gives you a bit of a scare though.”

It’s not the first time Small has had a near encounter with death.

Having spent almost 40 years on the NSW Police Force, the former detective and Assistant Commissioner is known best as the officer who led the team that captured Ivan Milat, the notorious backpack killer who is now serving seven concurrent life sentences in Goulburn’s Supermax prison.

On that occasion it was the deaths of Milat’s victims in Belanglo State Forest that confronted Small, but his brush with death last year was much closer to home.

“It didn’t come on suddenly. I just started to feel weary and tired but didn’t think anything of it. But it persisted until going up the stairs at home was an effort. I decided then to see a doctor.”

The doctor checked Small, 72, and suggested he pack his bag for hospital, where he underwent numerous tests before an angiogram showed a blocked artery.

A stent was put in the ease the flow of oxygen-rich blood.

Once out of hospital it was then necessary for Small to remain on medication and slowly regain his health.

His doctor has recently given the greenlight to Small who can now resume activities as normal.

“Though this summer,” he says, “It’s either been too hot or raining when I’ve wanted to go for a long walk”.

Small never thought he’d be a victim of heart disease. He hasn’t ever been a smoker (“I had maybe three as a 15-year-old”), drinks in moderation, eats well, walks regularly and has no family history of heart disease.

“Get your heart checked,” he says, “as you never know when the unexpected might occur”.