Coronation Street star Malcolm Hebden has spoken for the first time about the ground-breaking operation that saved his life after he suffered a near-fatal heart attack. Actor Malcolm, who plays busy-body shopkeeper Norris Cole in the hit ITV soap , has not been seen on screen since last year. Today, he spoke for the first time about his health scare after suffering a “silent heart attack” - to praise the staff at Blackpool Victoria Hospital who saved his life. Malcolm Hebden, who plays Norris Cole Malcom spoke to the Blackpool Gazette in an interview to mark the 70th anniversary of the NHS today. The 78-year-old was treated at the Lancashire Cardiac Centre in December, where consultant cardiothoracic surgeon Joseph Zacharias ‘wallpapered’ his heart. He told the paper that such was the severity of the ‘silent’ heart attack - which came with none of the warning signs typical of a heart attack - that it effectively tore his heart, splitting a hole in the left ventricle and it was unclear whether he would survive. After the operation Malcolm was then in a three week-long induced coma, before being transferred back to Blackburn Royal Hospital for further rehabilitation, meaning he never met many of the nurses and other staff who cared for him during his stay in Blackpool. He told the Blackpool Gazette : “Most of December I was in an induced coma, in the care of these brilliant, wonderful people at the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU). “Fortunately I didn’t realise how bad it was; I was dying. “The cardiac team, headed by Mr Zacharias, simply saved my life.” Malcolm Hebden plays much-loved Corrie character Norris Cole (Image: ITV) Malcolm had visited his GP with a chest infection in December and after listening to his heart he was called later that same day to be told an emergency ambulance was on its way to collect him and take him to the Royal Blackburn Hospital, the nearest hospital to his home in the Ribble Valley. “I was informed by my doctor I had had at least one heart attack,” he said. “I was sent to hospital, by emergency ambulance to Blackburn hospital and was there one night. “While there I collapsed and was brought here to Blackpool Victoria - where I was operated on, in a procedure which was described by my surgeon Mr Zacharias as ‘ground-breaking’. “The heart attack tore a hole in my heart, they operated and took a chance.” The actor’s heart was ‘wallpapered’ to repair the damage done by the silent heart attack, using tissue from a cow in the procedure. He was moved back to the Royal Blackburn Hospital still in a coma, and came round ‘some time in January’, before being discharged in late February, after almost three months in hospital. “From getting into that ambulance at home, I don’t really remember much at all,” he said. “It was almost like I thought it was happening to Norris Cole, like a soap opera about the NHS.” Malcolm Hebden plays Norris Cole - pictured in Corrie in August 2017 with Mary Taylor (Patti Clare) (Image: ITV/Coronation Street) He returned to Blackpool to thank staff who treated him on his road to recovery. Malcolm said: “Hospitals don’t get good press because the NHS just can’t do everything, but all praise to Blackpool hospital and the NHS. “I met some nurses while at Blackburn, they had been coming round turning me every half hour through the night for weeks. “But I didn’t meet the staff really at Blackpool; I want to thank these people who were strangers to me, but to whom I owe my life. “It’s wonderful to meet them and a bit emotional to be reunited with the people who I never met, here today.” The actor first appeared as Norris in Coronation Street since 1994, taking a break between 1997 and 1999, and playing the nosy neighbour ever since. He has been on an ‘extended break’ from filming at Corrie’s Media City studios in Salford, with a cruel online hoax claiming he had actually died circulating earlier this year. Corrie icons Norris and Rita (Image: ITV) Malcolm told the Gazette his future on the show was still uncertain, due to his on-going recovery although he has been discharged from the Vic’s care.