CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Firefighters are known for running into the face of danger, but their greatest health risk is heart disease. Experts said it’s the leading cause of death in firefighters.

Champaign Fire Department Battalion Chief John Hocking recently had a close call. Hocking said he had been experiencing mild chest pains, and not thinking much of it, he stopped by a clinic to get something for the discomfort.

He was shocked when doctors told him he was being airlifted to Springfield for blockage in a main artery. They call this blockage “The Widowmaker.”

A 100 percent blockage can be deadly without emergency care. Hocking’s was at 99 percent.

The 54-year-old said he was lucky he decided to go in when he did.

“It doesn’t have to be all those classic signs of a heart attack,” Hocking said. “I know the pressure, the radiating pain, diaphoretic, getting dizzy. That didn’t happen to me. It just didn’t.”

He, along with the fire chief, stressed the importance of not ignoring symptoms no matter how mild.

Their saying is, “if you don’t feel well, don’t make it your farewell.”

Tuesday was Hocking’s first day back on the job, and he said he doesn’t feel like he had a heart attack at all. He credited this to the therapy and a needed change in lifestyle.