Four years ago, British teen Kieran Quinlan was the victim in a horrific armed robbery at the age of 17. The thief literally stabbed him in the heart in order to steal away his phone, according to the Daily Mail.
"[The knife attack] left me with a stab wound to my heart, lung and main artery. I was in intensive care for 3 weeks," Quinlan, now 22, wrote on his Facebook page. "During the operation (open heart surgery) my heart stopped three times and I was told I shouldn’t [have] survived."
He did more than just survive, though. Quinlan was an amateur boxer before the attack and his above-average fitness level helped him pull through his injuries, he said. He sadly can no longer box, but fitness is still very much part of his life as a professional bodybuilder.
In addition to kicking butt at bodybuilding, Quinlan is a personal trainer and a youth worker at the Knife Awareness Project, an organization that fights to reduce knife crime in the U.K. He also travels to schools to talk about youth violence and its prevention.
MTV News caught up with Quinlan on Thursday, July 16 to learn more about his experience.
MTV: What was your daily life like for you after the attack versus now?
Kieran Quinlan: After the attack, it was such a surreal feeling. I couldn’t work out ... I went from having athlete-level fitness and strength to not being able to lift my arms above my head. Coming to terms with that was the hardest part. After being told I could never box again, I was so angry, and it began to get out of control. I started going out and drinking and getting into fights every [week]. This was a combination of paranoia, anger, post-traumatic stress and my own poor choices.
Nowadays I’m stronger than ever! I couldn’t lift my arms up before -- now I deadlift 240kg! ... I’m a youth worker and teach kids about making the right choices and being able to manage their anger. I was also so insecure about my body due to the massive scar on my chest, [but] now I'm proud of my body! I’ve built it through hard work and determination, and the scar is just a reminder that life’s too short to be angry.
MTV: Wow, that's amazing. So what inspired you to pursue bodybuilding instead of some other sport?
Quinlan: After my attack I lost so much weight. I was so skinny and it made me feel vulnerable, which didn’t help with my paranoia. I was so insecure about my scar that I wouldn’t take my top off in front of anyone for years, SO I thought maybe if I go to the gym and put a bit of size on I'd feel a bit more confident. I was right. As soon as I started seeing my arms growing, that was it, I was hooked. I become addicted to the gym. It gave me that focus and determination I lost when I was told I couldn’t box again. But things really [began] to change when I met my girlfriend, Lauren. She was so supportive and managed to calm me ... I don't know where I'd be without her.
MTV: Do you have any words of advice for young teens who want to get into fitness?
Quinlan: Do your research before you start training and get a set goal, plan and diet in place. A lot of guys start and don’t really know where they want to be and begin to drift off. Have an image of what you want to look like, follow your fitness idols [to] see what they’re doing, try different things, educate yourself and don’t rush. Fitness is a lifestyle; there are no short cuts.
MTV: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Quinlan: I’m not releasing my story to get a pat on the back or a "well done" message. I'm sharing this to impact and inspire people. My goal is to help prevent knife crime and through the Knife Awareness Project, this is possible. We’ve already begun to make massive changes in schools across the Midlands and this will continue, but we need your support! Young people are dying, I was one of the lucky ones. I’m believe I’m here for reason to help make a difference.