'Every day was a new challenge' 

Having a stroke on the first day of his summer holiday was the last thing Stephen Harnet expected, especially as he was a healthy 32-year-old at the time.

"I'd taken my wife and baby boy for a week in Spain. We'd been there less than 12 hours when I collapsed on the street. I was rushed to a hospital in Barcelona and I lay there in a coma for 72 hours.

"It turned out that the stroke was due to a condition I was born with called arteriovenous malformation [AVM], which is a tangle of abnormal blood vessels [arteries and veins], and can affect the brain and lead to a stroke.

"Hospital staff didn't think I was going to make it during those critical hours. They kept saying to my wife, 'No good, no good'. I don't know how she kept it together.

"Luckily, I did pull through. I had a life-saving operation on my brain and was then air-ambulanced home to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, where I spent the next three months.

"I don't remember much about that time, but I do recall a lot of people saying I might not walk or talk again. But those words of doubt spurred me on – I was determined to lead a normal life.

"Every day I faced a new challenge, but as the weeks went by I accomplished so much. The more I succeeded, the more I wanted to do. I even shocked medical staff by becoming a dad again, which they had said I wouldn't be able to do.

"Before the stroke I was a technical manager working 12-hour days, seven days a week. I knew I wouldn't be able to do that again. I took a computer course and applied for administrative jobs. Now I have a paid part-time job as a medical records assistant at my rehabilitation centre.

"I also do voluntary work with other stroke victims. When I was really poorly, it gave me so much hope when I met people who'd had the same experience but had turned their lives around. I wanted to do the same for others. I truly believe that positivity is the best medicine – there's only so much that medicine can do.

"I've been through a hard time, but I really believe that, in some ways, my stroke made me a better person. I now know what's important in life, and try to enjoy every minute."

Page last reviewed: 07/02/2017

Next review due: 07/02/2019