A Salford man has thanked the air ambulance team who saved his life when he collapsed during a gym session.

Mike Bray, aged 48, suffered a blocked artery while he was training last year but was lucky that a crew were able to reach him quickly and revive him at the scene.

He was taken to hospital and had to undergo emergency surgery but fortunately survived the episode.

Now, the North West Air Ambulance is celebrating its 21st anniversary and Mr Bray is urging people to help the charity, which is supported by donations from the public.

"I am so lucky to be here, and I can’t thank the people who helped me that day enough," he said.

"Without the effort of the air ambulance – and my physiotherapist, who gave me CPR – I wouldn’t be here. I couldn’t believe it when I found out that it’s a charity, and as soon as I was discharged, I knew I had to support them.

"I’ve actually now met the team who helped me that day, which was really emotional. They’re unbelievable people and deserve so much recognition for what they do.

"I encourage everyone I meet to support them – this charity saved my life, and will save so many others in the future.”

Since it was first created at Blackpool Airport in 1999, the air ambulance has service has completed over 22,000 missions.

In 21 years, the service has grown from one helicopter to three, launched four rapid response vehicles and opened a second airbase in Barton.

The air ambulance is entirely charity-run, depending on public and corporate support. It does not receive government funding.

As part of the charity's anniversary, bosses are hoping people will donate and help with fundraising.

Elizabeth, nine, from Warrington, made £400 for the charity by doing a sponsored silence

One young supporter wishing the air ambulance a happy birthday is 9-year-old Elizabeth, from Warrington, who has single-handedly raised over £400 by taking part in a 21-hour sponsored silence.

She was inspired to fundraise after seeing the air ambulance’s paramedics on BBC One’s Ambulance:

The youngster said “It was hard not to talk for so long, but it was worth it to raise money for the air ambulance charity. I wanted to say thank you for its work, because its paramedics are my heroes.

"I want to be a paramedic when I grow up now, and help people just like they do.”

Heather Arrowsmith, North West Air Ambulance Charity CEO, added “I want to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported our charity over the years. In this time our charity has made a truly lifesaving difference to our community, thanks to the hard work of our crew, our team at HQ and volunteers, and the incredible generosity of our fundraisers and donors.

"Supporters like little Elizabeth make all the difference to our work. It takes over £9.5 million a year to remain operational, and we simply wouldn’t be here without this support.

“Our charity’s mission is to improve outcomes for patients all across the North West, whether someone needs a blood transfusion by the side of the M6, has gotten into difficulties up in the Lakes or has suffered a heart attack at home. By swiftly bringing the hospital directly to the patient, our crew can make the difference between life and death. Patients like Mike really drive this home – and we’re so grateful to all those who have allowed us to carry out this work since 1999.”

To celebrate its 21st birthday and raise urgent funds, the service is calling on people to take on a new challenge: Go21! Challengers can choose any activity to help raise funds and awareness – whether that’s completing 21 laps of the garden or running 21 miles over 21 days.

To receive your free fundraising pack or download a special kid’s activity pack, head to nwaa.net/21bday or contact fundraising@nwaa.net.