6 episodes

Jane Garvey talks to people who have lived through extraordinary events and discovers how these moments have reshaped lives in the most unpredictable ways.

Life Changing BBC

    • Society & Culture

Jane Garvey talks to people who have lived through extraordinary events and discovers how these moments have reshaped lives in the most unpredictable ways.

    The coalman who could have been a prince

    The coalman who could have been a prince

    Keith Williams aka Keith ‘y Glo’ or ‘Keith the coal’ was born in 1952 and brought up as the son of a coal merchant in South Wales. At the age of 13 he found out he had been adopted but it was only when he was in his forties and expecting a grandchild that he started looking into his family history.

    He eventually tracked down his birth mother and arranged an emotional reunion. It was at this first meeting that Keith asked her about his birth father and was presented with a bundle of documents and photographs. She told him that his father had been a young Malaysian prince who had also been studying in London. They had fallen in love and started a relationship but he was forced to return to Malaysia, where he later became the Sultan of Perak, one of the country’s nine royal families.

    That revelation and Keith’s search for answers has taken him to Malaysia and back as he attempts to piece together who he really is and what defines his identity.

    In another life Keith could have been royalty, and while that knowledge has changed him he reflects that he wouldn’t have had what he has now; the warmth and love of his large Welsh family and the strong relationship he built with his birth mother.

    If you have a story you would like to share you can contact the programme at Lifechanging@bbc.co.uk

    • 28 min
    The day I lost a lifetime of memories

    The day I lost a lifetime of memories

    Charlie Wilson is a married father of two from Aberdeen, not that he had any recollection of that when he woke up in a hospital bed in June 2008.

    Before that day he had lived a very comfortable, sometimes lavish lifestyle. A self-confessed workaholic, he often worked 16-hour days as a self-employed finance director in charge of multi-million-pound deals. That all came to a sudden halt when Charlie, then 44, suffered a massive stroke and woke up with no memory of who he was. He didn’t recognise his wife or his children, in fact every single memory of Charlie’s life up to that point was now gone.

    His recovery was a slow and often frustrating process; he not only had to accept what he was being told by others about who he was, but he also had to relearn simple tasks like brushing his teeth or tying his shoelaces. Charlie rarely looks at old photo albums now, it can be frustrating looking back at a life and at people he doesn’t recognise. Those memories will never come back but overall his recovery has been remarkably positive. He’s returned to working in finance, now at the University of Aberdeen.

    Over the last 12 years Charlie has learned techniques which help him recall what he’s been told about his earlier life and how to keep hold of the new memories he’s making with his family.

    Charlie was given an hour to live following the stroke but now says it’s a blessing to be alive and always looks to the future.

    Do you have a story about a life-changing moment that you would like to share? You can contact the programme at Lifechanging@bbc.co.uk

    • 28 min
    I witnessed the plane crash that killed my sisters

    I witnessed the plane crash that killed my sisters

    Harriet Ware-Austin grew up between the UK and Ethiopia where her father worked. It was a unique and wonderful upbringing but that all changed suddenly in April 1972 when East African Airways Flight 720 departed from Addis Ababa airport en route to England. On board were Harriet’s two older sisters who were travelling back to the UK for school.

    Harriet and her parents waved them goodbye from a viewing platform and watched the aeroplane taxi down the runway and briefly lift off. Tragedy struck when very soon afterwards the plane crashed down resulting in the deaths of 43 people including both of Harriet’s sisters, Jane aged fourteen and Caroline who was twelve.

    The family moved back to the UK and had to adapt to the silence of life without the two girls and the reluctance in society to talk openly about death and grief. The transition was a “horrible shock” and Harriet felt she had a responsibility to compensate for the loss of her siblings and to avoid making any trouble for her parents.

    This event has had a profound effect on Harriet’s life and the decisions she has made since. Now a human rights consultant, Harriet has recently decided to try and track down survivors and other relatives of the crash victims to find out how the course of their lives were also changed in that moment.

    Is there an extraordinary turning point in your life that you’d like to share? You can contact the programme at Lifechanging@bbc.co.uk

    • 28 min
    I stole €1.75 million from work to feed my gambling habit.

    I stole €1.75 million from work to feed my gambling habit.

    Jane Garvey talks to Tony O’Reilly about the time he was forced to confront his spiralling addiction.

    Tony O’Reilly is from County Carlow in the Republic of Ireland. He placed his first bet at the age of 24. It was 1998 and like many, he was watching the World Cup. He and a mate put a pound on Kluivert to score the first goal in the Netherlands - Argentina quarter final and a final result of 2-1. He won. And so began his relationship with gambling.

    It started as a bit of fun at the weekend but years later, once he’d got an online account, the betting escalated rapidly and soon turned in to a full-on addiction.

    On his wedding day, Tony believed he’d lost all the money that was to pay for the event. He was saved when a horse he’d backed came from nowhere to win at the Epsom Derby. And so his addiction remained a secret. Now, with mounting debts and a baby on the way, Tony started to steal from his employer in a desperate attempt to try and win and pay everything back. By the end he had stolen 1.75 million Euros. On the day the auditors arrived to check the accounts Tony went on the run.

    He ended up in prison, his marriage fell apart and he lost his home but he never placed another bet. Now, a decade on, Tony is a full-time gambling addiction counsellor with Extern Problem Gambling and gives talks at secondary schools about the dangers of betting.

    Details of organisations offering information and support with addiction are available at bbc.co.uk/actionline, or you can call for free, at any time to hear recorded information on 08000 155 947

    Do you have an extraordinary story that you’d like to share? You can contact the programme at Lifechanging@bbc.co.uk

    Image credit: @Photocall Ireland

    • 28 min
    A falling man left me paralysed

    A falling man left me paralysed

    Jane Garvey talks to Grace Spence Green, a 25-year-old trainee doctor, about an extraordinary turning point in her life.

    Grace was walking through the atrium of the Stratford Westfield shopping centre when a man fell from several storeys up and landed directly on top of her. She woke up hearing screams and slowly realised they were her own. She was urgently telling those around her that she couldn't feel her legs.

    Grace was left seriously injured. She spent weeks in recovery in hospital, many of those nights desperately trying to wiggle a toe, many of the days learning the new skills of navigating life in a wheelchair and coming to terms with her new reality. All the while everyone around her was full of opinions and fury about what had happened to her but Grace's reaction may surprise you.

    Do you have an extraordinary story that you’d like to share? You can contact the programme at Lifechanging@bbc.co.uk

    • 28 min
    Discover extraordinary real-life stories

    Discover extraordinary real-life stories

    Jane Garvey meets incredible people who have lived through unimaginable events.

    Discover these inspiring stories of hope, resilience, bravery and opportunity, sharing in the shocks and surprises life throws at us all.

    • 2 min

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