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A series of unfortunate events

Just four years ago, Chris Nichols had an easy life. But only now, after two near-death experiences, does he really understand the joy of being alive



'Up until my 24th birthday I had a straightforward and easy life. If asked, I probably would have said that I was enjoying life. However, a week after my 24th birthday, a chain of events began that rendered the gentle contentment that I had been accustomed to completely untenable. These events have made me appreciate how it actually feels to be genuinely excited to be alive.

On 20 February 2008 my partner, Emma, and I were house-sitting my grandparents' flat when the unserviced boiler gave way in an unrelenting spray of carbon monoxide. Apparently my only wish before passing out was to get naked and head to the loo one last time and, but for the resilience of Emma (in calling 999 before she passed out) and the bravery of the emergency services (in entering an unsafe building without proper breathing equipment), I would have died naked on the loo. Emma and I would have joined the 21 people in Britain who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 2007/08. They reckon that another five minutes could have made the difference.

I'm told that while I was in hospital I was happiness personified but, to this day, I can't remember the events of that morning or much of what happened in hospital. I suffered from short-term memory loss for four weeks, which wreaked havoc with my confidence. This wasn't helped by a newfound awkwardness with social situations; I was reluctant to admit to myself what had happened to me so that conversation was off limits, but I found it almost as hard to talk about other issues...'- Continue to read