Ex-Royal marine Steve Thomas was on the brink of death when he was found with massive head injuries in the middle of a Thai road.
Doctors warned his family if the former 42 Commando lance corporal ever recovered he would never walk or talk again because of the horrific brain damage he suffered.
But two years later the former soldier has spoken for the first time about his astonishing road to recovery, belief he was the victim of a vicious robbery and his determination to get better every day.
“They said I had a bad accident,” the 41-year-old WalesOnline.
“But I was attacked.”
He was discovered lying in the road on September 5, 2011, but had no cuts on his hands or face – as might have been found on a crash victim.
But the dad-of-two was rushed to Bangkok Hospital in Phuket with a broken jaw.
And the Bluebird fan’s cheek was shattered and his head cracked open.
His eye socket was wrecked.
A fracture ran from it, over the top of his head, and to the back of his skull. His neck was broken.
The martial arts expert – who now walks slowly with a stick – has no memory of what happened.
After the incident he suffered three brain haemorrhages and was left with severe brain damage.
This has left the former soldier with partial paralysis.
Talking and walking are difficult.
His right hand is weak. He is blind in his right eye.
“My speech is not very good but my brain is working all the time, a hundred to the dozen,” Steve said.
“I’m working on that and have speech therapy once a week. It’s very good.
“Only time will tell if it will make a difference. I’m feeling fine about it because I’m lucky to be alive.”
He was left unconscious after the incident, which happened near the Wat Chalong Buddhist temple, near the southern tip of the island.
“It sent me into a coma,” Steve said.
“My memory is very bad now but it is getting a lot better. I still don’t know what happened to me. Maybe in time I will, but now I don’t.”
His mum Linda Gardiner, who lives with her son in Newport, recalled the family’s horror when they realised what had happened.
“When my husband got in touch with a doctor in Thailand he was told it was really serious and that if he was not moved from the hospital he was in he was going to die,” the 59-year-old said.
“I was just numb and shocked and devastated.
“I didn’t know what we were going to face or what condition Steve was in.”
Linda, who runs a bedroom company in Cardiff, booked a flight to Phuket.
“I was over there for six weeks with him and Allan was there for three weeks,” she said.
Allan is her husband, Steve’s stepdad.
“It was costing £1,200 a day in this private hospital,” the mum-of-one and grandmother-of-four said.
“So we needed funds.”
The Marines and the British Legion helped. So did family and friends.
“The bill was over £40,000,” Linda said.
“And then there was the flight home as well. We were quoted over £100,000 to bring him home.”
Her boy, a grandfather-of-one, was on Phuket tackling Somali pirates.
He doesn’t think his work was behind the assault. After the attack £300 he had in his wallet was gone.
His family were amazed by his recovery.
“It’s a miracle,” Linda said. Only in time did I realise how serious it was.
“I didn’t realise the extent of the brain injuries. I had no understanding of brain injury and had no idea of how severe it would be.
“But he has done marvellously.”
“They said I would be in a vegetative state,” he said.
“I put my recovery down to my fighting spirit. And my mother, my children and my close team.”
Steve returned to the UK on October 20, 2011. He was taken into intensive care at Newport’s Royal Gwent.
On November 24 he transferred to the city’s St Woolos hospital. He left there on March 16 last year.
Since then he has been working with neuro physiotherapists Sarah Candy and Jakko Brouwers.
They have been using state of the art equipment to get Steve in shape at Newport’s specialist Morrello Clinic.
The family have little hope of catching his attackers.
“We have spent our time moving forward rather than going back and wasting money trying to find someone we may never find,” Linda said.
Steve is spending time working on his balance.
“I’m not the best now but I am recovering every day,” Steve said.
“I will do more tomorrow and I will do more the day after.”
It was “remarkable” Steve had come so far.
“We are so pleased because it could have been so different,” Linda said.
“He might not have been able to walk or talk. He could have been permanently in a wheelchair, but he is not.”