22-year-old Kieran Quinlan from Birmingham was stabbed in the chest when he was 17 by a thug who wanted to steal his mobile phone.
Now the survivor, who took up weight training to regain his strength after the attack, has become a competitive bodybuilder.
After the unprovoked attack, Quinlan would only work out at night because he was so self-conscious about the 10-inch scar on his chest.
However, he has now overcome those insecurities and, after bulking up to 15-and-a-half stone, he recently placed second in his first competition – the “body transformation” category of the Pure Elite event in Manchester.
Speaking to the Mail Online, he said:
After the attack, I was so weak I couldn’t pour myself a cup of tea and I had a horrible scar on my chest. I didn’t want anyone to see it – now I’ve got over that and am stronger than ever.
Competing for the first time finally gave me some clarity over what he had been through. I now see the scar as a badge of honour to show what I’ve managed to overcome. It’s nice to know that your hard work pays off and to hear the judges and other competitors feedback was so nice, it just gave me even more motivation.
Everyone should be happy in their skin and shouldn’t feel like they have to hide away. For years I wouldn’t take my top off in front of people or wear anything V-neck because I was scared people would ask questions. Now I’m proud of my body – it’s the only one I’ve got.
The former boxer turned personal trainer was stabbed through the heart, aorta and left lung in the 2010 attack at a bus stop, and after he’d been taken to A&E, his heart stopped three times.
The attacker, who was later caught and jailed for five years, fled while paramedics rushed to the bus.
Recounting the terrifying moment, Kieran said:
I looked and there’s just blood everywhere – leaking down my front and all the way down my legs. I put my hand to my chest and blood was squirting between my fingers. It was so surreal.
I was slumped on a chair and my vision was going black and closing in on me. Another passenger had called an ambulance and was keeping pressure on my chest with her hands. When the paramedics finally arrived I was just repeating my name, repeating my address and thinking, ‘I’m going to die’.
The doctors told me the only reason I survived was because of boxing, because I was so fit my heart was so strong.
Kieran now splits his time between working as a personal trainer and doing charity work with the Knife Awareness Project, a group that aims to prevent young knife crime.
I love doing this as I realised being able to educate children to help make the right ones is so rewarding. If I can make one kid leave a knife at home that’s potentially a life saved.