A Norfolk man who suffered two strokes at 35 stars in BBC show The Secret Helpers

The Secret Helpers: Mark and Joe offer secret advice to Norfolk groom-to-be Dan Needham- (C) BBC

The Secret Helpers: Mark and Joe offer secret advice to Norfolk groom-to-be Dan Needham- (C) BBC - Credit: BBC/Auntie Productions

Dan Needham's life was turned upside-down by two sneezes which tore an artery in his neck and led to two strokes and a long road to recovery. Now he's facing a new challenge on a BBC show which offers people facing difficulties a host of secret advice.

Dan Needham recovering in hospital after a stroke

Dan Needham recovering in hospital after a stroke - Credit: Dan and Suzy Needham

A Norfolk man who fought his way through recovery after suffering two life-changing strokes will be the star of a new BBC TV programme The Secret Helpers as he faces another huge challenge: his wedding day.

Dan Needham was driving to work in 2015 when a simple sneeze triggered the first of two strokes: he stopped his car on a minor road inAntingham as he began to lose sensation in the left-hand side of his body, managing to call then-fiancee Suzy Young, a physiotherapist, who drove him to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital where doctors told him he'd had a minor stroke.

He was discharged, but three days later suffered a second, more severe stroke at home, again prompted by a sneeze – this time, a serious rupture to an artery in his neck caused brain stem damage: 'It felt a lot worse and more intense the second time,' Dan said at the time, 'it was just completely out of the blue.'

The strokes left Dan, who lives with Suzy in North Norfolk, with damaged vision and struggling to walk without a frame. In a bid to reach out to others who were struggling after having a stroke, he set up a Facebook page to share details of his recovery to give those in a similar situation and their families, hope.

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'I set up the page to tell friends what had happened and to reach out to other people who have experienced something similar,' he said, 'it's changed my life but it's not changed me, so I'll just have to do some things differently from now.'

The self-confessed 'petrol head', who is a sales engineer, is a motorbike fanatic described himself as 'fit and active' before the strokes.

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In a warm new five-part series for BBC Two, ten people who are about to embark on one of the toughest weeks of their lives welcome the support and advice of worldly-wise strangers from around the globe through a secret in-ear device.

Via the wonders of modern technology an Irish nun, a traditional healer and her friend from South Africa, a couple of retired police officers from New York, two Italian mamas and a Norweigan health guru watch the person live going about their week and hand-hold them towards their significant event, whether it's a wedding, the first week of fatherhood or a new business launch.

In the first episode it's Dan and Brett's turn to prove themselves with the help of the secret helpers. Dan

Programme notes say: 'Although he may look like someone who has fully recovered, when he pushes himself too hard he gets migraines, cannot walk and gets aches and pains down the left side of his body. He also gets anxious when faced with large crowds of people.

'With a week to go to their wedding, Dan is desperate to support Suzy. But he is worried that if he pushes himself too hard he won't make it to the altar. Dan needs all the help he can get from the sages in the lead up to the most important day of his life. Will Suzy discover she's got unusual guests at her big day?'

Brett, meanwhile, is a first-time parent. He and his wife Jess have just brought their identical twins home from the hospital and are exhausted from a scary pregnancy fraught with medical complications. It's not long before he's secretly getting instructions from the secret helpers, impressing his wife and with burping techniques, home cooked meals and South African lullabies. Brett wants to learn to be a dad who fully supports his wife and helps settle the twins before he returns to work.

The sages are Gwen and Elisa from South Africa, Chiara and Agata - the Mamas from Italy, Mark and Joe - the New York Cops, Sister Una from Ireland and Lillian from Norway.

* The Secret Helpers is on BBC2 at 8pm on March 21 and then on iPlayer.

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