Glasgow and Scottish rugby came close to losing one of its best-known figures last month when John Shaw was taken to hospital after an appearance in a festival match.

The former Glasgow flanker, one of the toughest nuts in the sport, had played for Peter Wright's Scottish Classics XV as the former international prop's original home club Lasswade celebrated the opening of their new facilities and was posing for pictures and chatting to youngsters when he started to feel unwell.

"I did not feel right and started to have pains in my chest but thought it was a result of a collision when I took a knock to my chest just before full-time," Shaw told The Herald. "I suggested this to the physio and he and the other first-aiders there were looking for some sort of muscle or bone injury not knowing that in fact my right coronary artery was blocked and I was having a heart attack.

"After a lengthy time delay I was taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary where I was rushed to have my artery dilated and a stent installed."

Shaw believes he was extremely fortunate that he got to the hospital in time to be treated. There within 40 to 50 minutes the technique performed by, in a strange coincidence, a Dr Spratt who is the brother-in-law of Stuart Reid, the former international flanker alongside whom he had been playing, could only be carried out if he was seen within 90 minutes.

"After successfully carrying out the procedure with great professionalism and precision he assured me I could play again," Shaw went on.

Still just 38, the managing director of Scaffolding Scotland Ltd is an individual who has kept himself in excellent shape since his professional career ended when he was released by Glasgow in 2001.

While he missed last season with West of Scotland, where he had originally made his name, he had been having discussions with John Beattie, their head coach, about a return this season. Doctors have reaffirmed that optimistic prognosis but his first priority, as a family man, is to regain his health and he began power-walking this week. "I'll be running again in two weeks and I'll give it to Christmas then see how things are going," he said.

However, this experience has shocked him and he believes his is a salutary tale, not least because such cases have been fairly common in top sport recently.

"I am a non-smoker, a very light drinker, have kept myself fit and active and have a healthy diet but you just don't know what happening inside to the most important muscle we have," he said, before noting that Martin Gaitan, the Argentina centre, suffered similarly the following week after the Pumas had played Wales in Cardiff..

"It turned out that he Gaitan fainted after the match with chest pains and was rushed to hospital where he had his coronary artery dilated and a stent installed, too. It's great news that he is out of hospital."

In another curious twist, Shaw received, soon after getting out of hospital, a request for a donation to the charity set up after the tragic death of Craig Hodgkinson, the ex-Glasgow Hawks stand- off, earlier this year, which he readily submitted. "Since this has happened and I am coming to terms with the possibility of giving up playing rugby which is such a big part of my life, I have had many thoughts on how many times this sort of thing may happen especially in a demanding contact sport like rugby," Shaw observed.

"On game day and at practice, do we have the right personnel ready to deal with something as severe like this? Is the right equipment available?"

The Craig Hodgkinson Trust, set up by his parents, is aiming to raise funds to put defibrillators, the presence of which might have saved Craig's life, at club and school grounds. Meantime, Shaw - who had undergone a BUPA health check just eight weeks ago - believes players of all ages should be thinking about preventative measures.

"As rugby players we have trained our bodies through the years to cope with this demanding sport but the most important muscle in our body that allows us to perform to the highest level is the one we most take for granted," he pointed out.

"Any sportsman at any level should have the opportunity and necessary testing facilities available to them to check out their hearts before embarking on any fitness regime.

"Today's society is so fast paced with bad eating habits, drinking, smoking and computer games that we are going to see a lot more of these life-threatening situations."