“Home and Away was on a bit of a production break and we were about to drive up to Queensland,” he reveals.
Instead, the 75-year-old found himself undergoing an angiogram, which revealed a need for surgery – and there was no time to waste.
“I’d been seeing a cardiologist every year for about 10 years, and this was another scheduled check,” he says. “I’d never had any symptoms, but just before I saw him this time, I did have a bit of shortness of breath. So I was able to say to him, ‘Mate, we’ve found what we’ve been looking for for 10 years!’
“I went in for an angiogram the next day, where they found a bit more than they thought they might and, about 48 hours after I first saw the cardiologist, I was going under the knife. It was all very quick. I didn’t have time to think about it and that was probably a good thing.”
Ray also pays tribute to Gilly, a former nurse. “I really don’t know what I would have done without Gilly,” he says. “Once a nurse, always a nurse. She’s been absolutely fantastic.”
Certainly, too, Ray is thrilled to have stepped back into Alf’s much-loved shoes.
“It’s so good to see all the faces and the fantastic crew that we have here,” he says.
And Ray urges everyone to undergo regular health and heart checks.
“When you wake up after the surgery, you do think ‘Well, here we go again! How good is this? A second chance’, ” he says.
“It does make you count your blessings.”
For more, see this week's New Idea - out now!
WATCH: Home and Away's Ray Meagher heart surgery scare