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Life Changing Podcast Profile

Life Changing Podcast

English, Social, 1 season, 51 episodes, 22 hours, 57 minutes
About
Jane Garvey talks to people who have lived through extraordinary events and discovers how these moments have reshaped lives in the most unpredictable ways.
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Trading places

Aged 19, Dan Simmonds turned down a university place and instead became an oil trader in the City of London. It was an exciting and ruthless environment driven by big risks and even greater rewards but also ultimately challenged Dan’s values and filled him with a desire to seek something new. Over a decade later whilst jogging around Regent’s Park Dan made a discovery that would change his life and career.
4/17/202428 minutes, 21 seconds
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It's the little things

Agnes Nisbett is a nurse and midwife whose own hospital experience in the 1970s revealed just how flawed and uncaring the system could be. Agnes came to the UK from St Kitts and Nevis as part of the Windrush generation. Her goal was to achieve as much as she could in her profession and despite the many barriers, “sheer hard work” got her to the top. Now in her eighties and looking back on her time in the NHS, she shares how her own private and personal loss inspired her to challenge and change things for others.This interview discusses the experience of stillbirth. Details of help and support with pregnancy-related issues are available through the BBC Action Line at bbc.co.uk/actionline.
4/10/202428 minutes, 18 seconds
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Witness

Georgia Gabriel-Hooper is now 20, she works for a tractor dealership and enjoys bumbling around the countryside. But as a child she was witness to a terrible event: her mother, Cheryl, was murdered in a domestic homicide. Understandably that day had a profound impact on Georgia who’s since shown extraordinary courage and determination to use her personal testimony to raise awareness and create change around domestic abuse.If you, or someone you know, has been affected by domestic abuse or violence, you can find details of support available on the BBC Action Line at bbc.co.uk/actionline. If you are in immediate danger, you should dial 999.
4/3/202428 minutes, 26 seconds
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Introducing… Young Again

Kirsty Young takes her guests back to meet their younger selves and asks the question: if you knew then, what you know now... what would you tell yourself?
3/19/202412 minutes, 10 seconds
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Harriet: what happened next

In this special edition of Life Changing, recorded in front of a live audience at the Hay Festival, we are catching up with Harriet Ware-Austin, who was a guest on the programme in 2021.Harriet had a difficult but important story to tell, concerning the deaths of her two sisters in a plane crash in Addis Ababa in April 1972. Harriet was only eight at the time and witnessed the event. Almost 50 years on, Harriet joined us to talk about the profound and long-lasting effects it had on her family. She also wanted to see if there was anyone else out there who had a connection to East African Airways Flight 720, but was totally unprepared for the extraordinary response her interview received.Two years later, this is the story of what happened after that interview and how it has been life-changing all over again.You can hear Harriet’s original interview here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000v8w8
12/26/202347 minutes, 23 seconds
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Hurting the one you love

Growing up in Newport with his mum and younger brother, Connor Allen struggled with his identity as a mixed race kid. He bottled up his feelings and as the anger and frustration built up, couldn’t find the words to express his emotions. When his rage erupts into violence against his Mum, she ends up doing the unthinkable and calling the police. Connor is left facing a prison sentence, his future at a crossroads. This episode was recorded in front of a live audience at the Hay Festival in May 2023.
11/22/202333 minutes, 13 seconds
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Bluebells on Bunny Hill

When Alan and Irene met in 1959, their connection was instant. The two isolated children aged just seven and nine found warmth and kindness in each other in a children’s home that was unwelcoming and strict. They would steal moments together up on Bunny Hill and talk about their lives. But the home had a rule that boys and girls could not mix. So when their friendship was discovered, a year after they first met, Alan and Irene were separated. It would take four decades for them to find each other again.
11/15/202328 minutes, 23 seconds
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I knew I could never make it right

In August of 2006, Teresa Clark was driving five of her friends back home after a day at a music festival. Several hours into the journey she fell asleep at the wheel of their people carrier and crashed. Three passengers were killed, two others were injured as well as Teresa herself. She was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving and spent time in prison. The guilt and shame of carrying that loss of life almost destroyed her. But in the 17 years since it happened Teresa has rebuilt; she now works in the mental health and wellbeing sector trying to keep the vow she made to live her life for her friends, and do some good in their memory. Details of support with mental health issues and bereavement are available at bbc.co.uk/actionline.
11/8/202328 minutes, 23 seconds
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Blink once

Police officer Clodagh Dunlop is used to dealing with emergency situations — until it’s her own. It’s Easter Monday 2015: Clodagh Dunlop is an ambitious police officer in Northern Ireland. A fit 35-year-old, she’s in training to run a 6-minute mile. But her day off takes a terrifying turn, and Clodagh finds herself trapped in her own body … hearing the conversations around her but unable to communicate. Then she finds the strength to make a remarkable breakthrough.
11/1/202328 minutes, 19 seconds
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The Baroness

Rachel Watkyn’s upbringing was a contradiction: aristocratic but impoverished. She was forced to memorise her father’s extensive family tree and was expected to behave as the 'perfect young baroness'. Despite their status the family didn't have clean clothes or heating and she was called ‘fleabag’ by other children at school. This left Rachel isolated, never knowing where she fitted in, and feeling not good enough. Years later, when Rachel was in her 50s, her father became unwell and made a startling revelation on his deathbed.
10/25/202328 minutes, 21 seconds
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Dead calm

When Will Darby left school in 2007 his peers all headed to university but Will wanted something different so he went travelling in search of remote, unknown, and unridden waves to surf. Will built himself an idyllic life in the Solomon Islands but after just a few weeks everything came crashing down in an event that would create a lifelong bond with the island and its inhabitants.
10/18/202328 minutes, 23 seconds
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It started as a perfect wedding day

It’s the summer of 2008 and a bride and groom have just stepped out of a carriage drawn by two white horses. The sun is out, the bridesmaids are wearing beautiful dresses, everyone has drinks in hands. The day's gone smoothly for the wedding party and for Emily King who is sitting at the front of the carriage in control of the horses; it's her business and it’s thriving. But then events take a terrifying turn. The psychological impact of that summer day has been deeply scarring but has also given Emily what her son calls ‘superpowers’. Details of support with mental health issues are available at bbc.co.uk/actionline.
10/11/202328 minutes, 12 seconds
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Sliced Bread is back!

Greg Foot returns to investigate a whole new batch of so-called wonder products suggested by you, the listeners. Sliced Bread is back for a new series from Thursday 28 September, 2023 on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds, with new episodes available weekly on Thursdays on BBC Sounds and wherever you get your podcasts.
9/25/20231 minute, 44 seconds
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If I panic I die

One Monday morning Stephen is meeting with his boss in a crowded coffee shop. Minutes later he’s at the centre of a horrific and brutal crime scene — his life hanging in the balance. It’s left him deeply scarred but has also prompted him to press the reset button on his life, and forced a fresh start for his family. This is a story he hasn’t told before publicly but as he explains to Dr Sian Williams, he believes sharing it will help him and perhaps others too. For links to support resources go to BBC Action Line: bbc.co.uk/actionline
5/17/202328 minutes, 20 seconds
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Speechless

Being a TV news anchor was everything to Polly Evans until she was forced to re-evaulate her identity. Her turning point happened in the spotlight – in front of an audience of hundreds of thousands – when she felt deeply exposed and humiliated. It was caused by a physical condition called Adductor Spasmodic Dysphonia, but Polly’s journey since then has been one of self-knowledge and finding fulfilment in other ways, including a new career. She braves the studio for the first time to tell this story to Dr Sian Williams.
5/10/202328 minutes, 47 seconds
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Overheard

Hazel Ellis-Saxon was brought up in a busy household with four siblings in the village of Tiptree in Essex in the 1960s. She struggled with her school work and was often finishing assignments when the other children were enjoying playtime. One day in a quiet classroom Hazel overheard her form teacher describe her to a colleague as ‘mentally retarded’. These two words had a profound effect — leading her to believe that she must be a huge disappointment to her parents and would never enjoy a full life. Dr Sian Williams hears how this label shaped Hazel’s decisions for decades and what it took for her to throw it off.
5/3/202328 minutes, 19 seconds
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From the rubble

It had been a beautiful day, Jessica Williams and her two young sons had been out in the local park enjoying the Welsh sunshine. By the time they got home they were happy but weary and looking forward to some cosy time on the sofa but as Jess opened the front door she noticed a strange smell. She put the boys in the sitting room and went into the kitchen to investigate — that was when the house exploded. Jessica tells Dr Sian Williams how the family, with the help of their village, began to rebuild their lives.
4/26/202328 minutes, 37 seconds
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The box under the bed

Growing up Joe Jaquest Oteng knew very little about his Dad; they struggled to find much common ground. Joe’s Dad, Peter, was guarded about his early life in Ghana and the family he had left behind when he emigrated to the UK in the 1960s. When Peter died Joe was left to sort through his belongings. He discovered bundles of documents, letters and photos which revealed new and shocking information which didn’t match the life story Joe had been told. Dr Sian Williams hears how Joe set out to find the truth about Peter and how along the way made some joyful discoveries for himself.
4/19/202328 minutes, 8 seconds
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Taken: Lisa’s story

It was September 2000 when Lisa and her 10-year-old brother Gary were taken to the airport. Their Dad said they were going on holiday and that mum Tracey was going to join them later, just as soon as she could get time off work. As the children boarded the plane full of expectations for the trip they could not know how profoundly this moment would shape the rest of their lives – they were soon told Tracey had died and there was no point ever going back to England. Dr Sian Williams hears about Lisa’s struggles to adapt to a new life in Pakistan, trying to keep memories of home and her mum alive but falling into despair and loneliness. Meeting her Mum again and returning to England aged 17 comes with a whole new set of challenges. This story is told from two perspectives, to hear mum Tracey’s experience scroll back to the previous episode.
4/12/202328 minutes, 9 seconds
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Taken: Tracey’s story

Tracey knew something was wrong the moment she got to the house. The place was empty, the children were gone and so was her husband Taz. Their marriage had broken down and they were going through divorce proceedings. Then she got a text message from him: ‘Gary and Lisa say goodbye forever.’ They’d been taken to Pakistan. Tracey enlisted the police, the Foreign Office and Interpol but in the absence of an agreement between Pakistan and England about parental child abduction cases — they were powerless. Tracey was advised not to travel to Pakistan and she had no idea where to start looking for them anyway. Dr Sian Williams hears what Tracey went through in the decade it took for her to find her children, and the complicated aftermath. In the next episode Sian talks to Lisa, Tracey’s daughter, to hear the story from her point of view.
4/5/202328 minutes, 20 seconds
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Baby steps

Jason and Liz met by chance whilst travelling, they fell in love and within a year were engaged and expecting a child. 365 days after that first meeting, Jason woke up from a coma. He had suffered a devastating brain injury which meant he would have to learn to walk again just as his son was taking his first steps. As a couple, Jason and Liz Le Masurier had to navigate a new and unexpected course. They tell their story to Dr Sian Williams.
11/23/202229 minutes
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Love and the law

What do you do, if falling in love with someone becomes a matter of life or death? In 2013 Aderonke Apata found herself on a coach in the UK, heading for the airport, about to be deported to Nigeria. She’d left her home country years earlier in fear for her life. Her ‘crime’ was that she loved another woman. Same-sex couples in Nigeria face jail time from the courts and, in Aderonke's situation, the threat of deadly violence at the hands of mobs. As she got on the coach the documents that Aderonke had painstakingly compiled to stop her deportation were still being furiously faxed to the authorities. At the eleventh hour she was given a reprieve — and so her legal training had begun. She would successfully fight her own case and find herself a new career in the process. Aderonke tells her story to Dr Sian Williams.
11/16/202234 minutes, 29 seconds
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Ripple effect

Electra Rhodes is walking down a busy London street when she sees a man collapse. She’s recently completed a first aid course and in the absence of anyone else she steps up and starts CPR. When the ambulance arrives and takes the man to hospital she makes a comment to his friend. Her words trigger a chain of events that will dramatically change the course of four lives. Electra tells Dr Sian Williams her story.
11/9/202228 minutes, 21 seconds
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Meal deal

It’s 2011 and Nicola Shaughnessy is on her way to an academic conference when she stops to buy herself some lunch. As she reaches for a sandwich she suddenly hears a familiar voice from her childhood. That moment and that voice lead to years of psychiatric care and upheaval but ultimately to answers and a better understanding of herself. Now a university professor, she tells her story to Dr Sian Williams. BBC Action Line support: Autism: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2637nQGtTK1D8YPkCSnlyDN/information-and-support-autism Eating disorders: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2DRkg4JC7SLT3B7hlrn6DKN/information-and-support-eating-disorders
11/2/202228 minutes, 28 seconds
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Apocalypse... now?

Steven Brosnan found himself in a bit of a rut, living at home and moving from job to job. Then, in 2012, on his 22nd birthday catastrophic events take place; rather than enjoying a pop concert with his brother he finds himself having to make apparent life-or-death decisions. Ten years later he tells Dr Sian Williams his unique story and the unexpectedly positive consequences those 48 hours had on his outlook. Producer: Thomas Harding Assinder with Edgar Maddicott
10/26/202228 minutes, 29 seconds
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No-one must ever know this

In the late 1950s a newspaper ran this small ad: 'Can Catholic people in London or the Home Counties offer a permanent home for an attractive baby girl aged one year who is above average intelligence?’ That girl was Teresa Weiler, who was subsequently adopted and raised in a loving family home. Twenty years later she went to read her adoption file. Alone in a room with those documents and totally unprepared, she discovered a terrible secret about her birth parents that would reverberate through her whole life and lead her to make a profound decision. Yet she told no-one about it for decades. Dr Sian Williams hears her story.
10/19/202229 minutes
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The comeback

Kieran Quinlan is 17, living in Birmingham and an aspiring boxer when he is confronted by a man with a knife who tells him to empty his pockets. Kieran is given a countdown, 3…2…1… and then it happens, he is stabbed — the knife reaching his heart. In surgery, he hears himself flatline. He survives but the wound leaves scars that penetrate deep into his life. It’s in the years that follow that the fight for survival really begins. Twelve years on, he tells his story to Dr Sian Williams. Please be warned there are some graphic images described in this episode and reference to suicide. If you’ve been affected by anything you’ve heard you can find support here: Mental health: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1NGvFrTqWChr03LrYlw2Hkk/information-and-support-mental-health-self-harm Suicide/Emotional distress: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4WLs5NlwrySXJR2n8Snszdg/information-and-support-suicide-emotional-distress
10/12/202239 minutes, 13 seconds
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Meet our new presenter, Dr Sian Williams

Life Changing returns with more extraordinary real-life stories.
10/5/20222 minutes, 32 seconds
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Undercover

It’s 1976, the UK is in the grip of a gruelling heatwave and fresh-faced detective, Steve Bentley is about to go undercover in a rural village in mid Wales. It’s his first undercover gig, part of a massive national operation called Operation Julie and Steve’s excited but wholly unprepared for the toll this job will take.
5/18/202228 minutes, 37 seconds
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A letter from Mum

It’s 1988 and Steve Ellis is working on the launch of a new magazine in London, when a letter lands on his desk. It’s from his mum and the contents of that letter are about to break a 37-year silence and send Steve on a painstaking quest lasting decades. He tells Jane Garvey his story.
5/11/202228 minutes, 13 seconds
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The castle

Mikey Allen is on a tour of duty to Afghanistan when he is caught up in a landmine blast. He is physically unharmed but witnessing the event leaves him with mental scars that look set to destroy his life. He finds a way to combat the trauma that is both majestic and unique. He tells Jane Garvey his story. Please be aware that this interview references suicide. If you are suffering distress or despair and need support, including urgent support, a list of organisations that can help is available at bbc.co.uk/actionline, or you can call for free to hear recorded information on 0800 066 066.
5/4/202228 minutes, 10 seconds
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Face value

It’s 1996 and Jill Clark has been living in Guernsey for less than a year. It’s been a glorious summer and she is looking forward to her 25th birthday. Like for most young people looks are important to her. A journey home from the pub is about to make Jill question the importance of the human face.
4/27/202230 minutes, 18 seconds
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A free lunch

From the age of two up to 16, Sinéad Browne is in and out of children’s homes and foster care. Her one constant is school. She’s regularly told she will amount to nothing but against expectations and as an act of defiance, Sinéad just studies harder. At times she is hungry and ashamed to ask for help. Years of a complicated relationship with food develop into a serious eating disorder but in spite of all this Sinéad gets herself three A’s at A level and then a law degree and a job as a solicitor. So many life experiences for a young woman but in the end it is a very simple thing, a meal, that forces a major turning point in her life. She tells Jane Garvey her remarkable story. Please be aware this edition talks about suicide and eating disorders. You can find details of organisations offering information and support with both these subjects: Eating disorders: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2DRkg4JC7SLT3B7hlrn6DKN/information-and-support-eating-disorders Suicide / Emotional distress: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4WLs5NlwrySXJR2n8Snszdg/information-and-support-suicide-emotional-distress
4/20/202228 minutes, 35 seconds
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Moving mountains

It’s 2013 when Gilbert and Jane both have to face a major transformative moment. Jane has been studying for a much longed-for PhD and a new exciting career is on the horizon. Their life together is built on a shared love of nature and hiking. But then Gilbert can no longer walk. Some big decisions have to be made and just when they are at their lowest, the mountain view from their bedroom window sparks something remarkable.
4/13/202229 minutes, 9 seconds
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Mayday

Moss Hills and his wife Tracey have made a successful living as entertainers on cruises. They play guitar and sing – usually covering 60s and 70s hits – as guests dance until the early hours. One stormy night in 1991 they were working on the Greek cruise liner Oceanos off the South African coast when the lights went out, the PA system fell silent and the ship rolled so much that just staying upright was a challenge. Their actions in the face of extreme danger would affect almost all of the 581 people on board. Moss Hills tells Jane Garvey his life-changing story.
4/6/202228 minutes, 40 seconds
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A nun, a priest and their vows

Catherine Butler-Burns decided to become a nun aged 17. It was a shock to her parents, they weren’t especially religious by Irish standards of the time and until then Catherine had been having a lively teenage social life. But she chose to take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience because the women she saw “saving the world” were nuns. Catherine took on a role teaching speech and drama at a Catholic school in Scotland where she met a priest called Father Michael. There was evidently an emotional connection between them but it was never openly acknowledged. She lived and worked as a nun for 42 years then - aged 60 - she made a momentous decision. And what would become of the love that had been stifled for nearly thirty years? To get in touch with the programme, or to share your personal story, you can email us at: [email protected] Image: Catherine Butler-Burns Credit: Catherine Butler-Burns
11/24/202128 minutes, 26 seconds
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A fear of dogs put my freedom at risk

When Jaina Mistry was young she had a very scary encounter with a dog that she thought had given her a lifelong phobia. Her family felt much the same. But years later her freedom would be curtailed in the most basic way as even going out to a café or to the gym became fraught with danger. To help her through this she was encouraged to put all her faith in a dog called Laura. Jaina is believed to be England’s first blind female fitness instructor and told Jane Garvey about the transformative impact Laura has had on her life. To get in touch with the programme, or to share your personal story, you can email us at: [email protected] Image: Jaina Mistry & Laura the dog Credit: Jaina Mistry Twitter: @mistryjaina1 Instagram: mistry_jaina
11/17/202128 minutes, 23 seconds
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The metal detectorist, the tip-off and the 30-year quest

One Sunday, over drinks, Reg Mead was told a story: that back in the fifties a farmer had unearthed a pot full of old coins. He’d scooped up what he could and then ploughed the rest back in to the field. Reg is a keen metal detectorist so his interest was piqued. He got permission from the landowner and set off with some friends from his metal-detecting club. But there was a catch, the land was very much in use so he could only search for four to five hours a year. After a while most club members gave up and moved on but Reg and his friend Richard Miles persisted, for thirty years. If you’d like to get in touch with the programme you can email us: [email protected]
11/10/202128 minutes, 34 seconds
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We said we’d never talk about it again

On the evening of Friday 29 November 2013, Michael Byrne was having a drink with a friend in a bar in Glasgow. They'd gone to see a band and had only been there for about an hour when suddenly it felt like everything had been shaken up – as if they were in snowglobe. Amid the chaos of falling debris Michael’s actions helping others were heroic, and afterwards to his wife and colleagues he seemed to be just fine. In the aftermath of this disaster he and his friend had agreed not to speak about what they’d been through in a misguided effort to ‘protect’ themselves. But Michael was struggling to cope and the more time that passed without talking about it, the worse things got for him. Confronting the experience would bring back traumatic memories from his early life and push him to a place where he contemplated suicide. He was stopped by a chance event – and then began seriously to address his mental health. Now Michael has founded an organisation called Lived Experience Trauma Support to provide mental health training and support services to businesses. The tragedy in 2013 was caused by a police helicopter that crashed into the roof of the Clutha Vaults in Glasgow. It claimed the lives of the pilot, his two crew members and seven customers in the pub that night. If you are looking for details of organisations offering information and support with mental health you can find them at bbc.co.uk/actionline. To get in touch with the programme, or to share your personal story, you can email us at: [email protected]
11/3/202128 minutes, 12 seconds
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I’m held together by 17 titanium plates

Pip Peacock lives in Bakewell in the Peak District, a perfect spot for walking the family dog, Buster. He’d been with them for 11 years. He was originally a present for her youngest son when he was a teenager but when he found out just how much was involved in dog ownership the title of chief dog walker soon fell to Pip. Thankfully she likes walking. This year she set herself a challenge of completing 1000 miles on foot. She finished the last mile this October, raising money for the air ambulance who had come to her rescue when she was seriously injured on another country walk with Buster back in 2019. She tells Jane Garvey how that moment left her fighting for her life. If you’d like to get in touch with the programme you can email us: [email protected] See here for more detail on how to keep safe whilst walking near livestock: www.ramblers.org.uk/advice/safety/walking-near-livestock.aspx
10/27/202128 minutes, 22 seconds
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The phone call that changed everything

Jemma Bere had an unusual childhood. Her mum was a primary school teacher who chose to homeschool her so they could move around a lot. They lived on a boat in Turkey, travelled to Thailand, Bali and across Europe. In her teens they finally settled in Wales after her mum met a new partner. He was a big drinker and home life became a bit chaotic but they muddled along. Jemma’s mum and stepdad moved to Spain in her second year of A-levels. By now the couple had two kids: Alex and Billie. Then, just as Jemma was doing her exams, her mum died, she’d been hit by a car. The children were looked after by their dad and an amazing nanny who kept everything together while he continued to drink. Jemma would visit all the time; by now she had started university, but the situation wasn’t brilliant and when the nanny had to leave to look after her sick mother everything fell apart. At the age of 23, fresh out of university with no home of her own and no job, Jemma made a life-changing split-second decision. Many of her friends and some of her family thought she was crazy but Jemma was stubborn and stuck to her guns. She tells her story to Jane Garvey. If you have a story you would like to share you can contact the programme at [email protected]
10/20/202128 minutes, 26 seconds
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We were paraded through the streets and spat at

In his twenties Jon Godsall was working in the family air-conditioning business but he also wanted to see the world, so he took his skills abroad. He found a job at the British embassy in Kuwait. On August 2, 1990, Jon set off in his car for work as he did every day. He realised something was wrong when he was stopped as he neared the embassy. The next thing he knew, he was on the floor with a gun pointing towards him. What happened next transformed his life. For thirty years, Jon found himself unable to speak about that time. Then in lockdown, this year, something changed and the process of opening up and sharing his experience had a remarkable impact on him. This is the first time Jon has told his story in public and some of what you will hear is upsetting. Details of organisations offering information and support with mental health are available at bbc.co.uk/actionline.
10/13/202130 minutes, 59 seconds
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Life Changing returns on October 13th

Jane Garvey introduces series 2 with more incredible stories of transformative moments.
10/6/20213 minutes, 17 seconds
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The near-death experience that made me a musician

Tony Kofi is the fifth of seven brothers and was raised by his Ghanaian parents in Nottingham in the late 1960s. At secondary school Tony was turned down for the music course he wanted to do, told he wasn’t focused enough, and directed to do woodwork instead. He stuck with woodwork as he was really good at it, and left school at the age of 16 to become a carpentry apprentice. A few months in, working on a house construction, he fell from the roof arch to the ground floor where he landed on his head. Tony says he experienced the fall in slow motion and he had clear visions of unknown faces and places and saw images of himself playing an instrument. During his recovery it was that image which kept coming back to him. Tony made the decision to quit his apprenticeship and announced his intention to become a musician. He bought a saxophone and taught himself how to play by ear, before earning a full scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in the US. Scroll forward many years, Tony is now a highly-acclaimed jazz saxophonist and credits the fall with turning his whole life around.
5/18/202128 minutes, 31 seconds
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Vitiligo turned all of my brown skin white

Sheetal Surti was born in to a British South Asian family in a small town in the East Midlands. Aged seven Sheetal noticed a white patch behind her ear. She didn’t think much of it but soon more patches appeared and started to spread. She was diagnosed with vitiligo – a skin condition where unpigmented patches appear on different parts of the body. And so the treatments began. Some were medically advised, some were recommended by friends. Most of them were unpleasant, one in particular was horribly painful. But most importantly, for Sheetal, they didn’t work. It was a lot for a girl going through puberty to handle and Sheetal’s answer was to slap on a smile and ignore it. While she couldn’t cover her patches, she became a master of covering up her feelings. Because of her appearance some people would ask if she had leprosy or skin cancer, others would tell her that she’d never get married or have a family. By 22 all of her skin had turned white. She no longer resembled the rest of her family. People would look at her quizzically when she told them her Indian name. After a while she would explain by telling them she was born in the 70s and her parents had gone through a hippie phase. She’d never talk openly about her vitiligo. Then, aged 35, Sheetal was watching a TV programme where people with vitiligo were talking about their condition. It was a turning point for her and the day she finally started to address her questions about belonging, her lost identity and the shame she’d buried for so many years. If you would like more information on vitiligo please visit www.nhs.uk
5/12/202129 minutes, 4 seconds
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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 [email protected]
5/5/202128 minutes, 53 seconds
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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 [email protected]
4/28/202128 minutes, 42 seconds
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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 [email protected]
4/21/202128 minutes, 47 seconds
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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 [email protected] Image credit: @Photocall Ireland
4/14/202128 minutes, 42 seconds
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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 [email protected]
4/7/202128 minutes, 24 seconds
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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.
4/1/20212 minutes, 42 seconds