By Luke Salkeld
Last updated at 1:59 AM on 9th November 2011
When 19-stone rugby player Chris Birch suffered a stroke during a freak training accident, his family feared it would be a life-changing injury.
Yet while his recovery certainly brought about a transformation, it seems to have been in a way no one could have expected.
For when he regained consciousness, the 26-year-old – who was engaged to his girlfriend – claimed he had become gay.
New life: Chris now works as a hairdresser and lives above the shop with his boyfriend
Mr Birch’s astonishing change saw him break up with his fiancée, ditch his job in a bank to retrain as a hairdresser and lose eight stone in weight.
He has now moved in with his 19-year-old boyfriend.
The now ex-rugby player, a flanker with his local amateur reserve side, had
been attempting a back flip in front of friends on a field when he fell down a
grass bank, breaking his neck and suffering the stroke.
Before the stroke: Chris Birch weighed 19 stone, worked in a bank and played rugby
He was taken to hospital where his fiancée and family spent days waiting anxiously at his bedside before he delivered the shocking news.
Mr Birch recalled: ‘I was gay when I woke up and I still am. It sounds strange but when I came round I immediately felt different.
‘I wasn’t interested in women any more. I was definitely gay. I had never been attracted to a man before – I’d never even had any gay friends.
‘But I didn’t care about who I was before, I had to be true to my feelings.’
Before the accident Mr Birch, of Ystrad Mynach, South Wales, had spent his weekends watching sport and drinking with his mates.
But he said: ‘Suddenly, I hated everything about my old life. I didn’t get on with my friends, I hated sport and found my job boring.
‘I started to take more pride in my appearance, bleached my hair and started working out. I went from a 19-stone skinhead to an 11-stone preened man.
‘People I used to know barely recognised me and with my new look I became even more confident.’
Mr Birch sought advice from his neurologist and was told it could all be down to the stroke opening up a different part of his brain.
Two years ago it was reported that Alan Brown, from Malvern, Worcestershire, woke from a stroke to find he was able to paint and draw in incredible detail, despite no previous evidence of the skill.
The father of three said the experience must have ‘flicked a switch’ in the creative part of his brain.
And Mr Birch certainly has no regrets about his transformation. ‘I’m nothing like the old Chris now but I wouldn’t change a thing,’ he said.
Transformation: Chris Birch with his boyfriend Jack. He said: 'I think I'm happier than ever, so I don't regret the accident'