Good Samaritan who was walking friend home from the pub lost his sight and a chunk of his skull after being set upon by baseball bat wielding thugs
Adam Harcombe looks down and sees the date September 6, 2020 tattooed on his forearm. It would have felt like an ordinary day at the time, but what was to transpire would change his life forever.
The then 26-year-old electrician and rugby player had been on a night out with his friends at a nightclub in Porth called Squares, and decided to walk his friend Lucy home in the early hours of the morning. But as they made their way along Pontypridd Road, something happened that they could never have anticipated.
Mr Harcombe was struck on the hand by a Volkswagen Golf being driven by Callum Meirion Thomas, who also had Nathan Emery in the car travelling with him. The pair circled around a one way system on Porth's High Street, before they approached Mr Harcombe and both set upon him. Thomas struck him repeatedly with a baseball bat which he had in the boot of his car. They then made off from the scene. You can read a more detailed account of the vile attack by clicking here.
The mindless and unprovoked incident saw Mr Harcombe left with horror injuries and fighting for his life at the University Hospital of Wales where he was operated on for up to four hours. He was left with a blood clot on his brain and a bone had to be removed from the side of his head because his brain was swelling. He lost vision in his left eye and was in hospital for 16 weeks, losing 14kg in weight.
After he initially woke up from a coma, Mr Harcombe, who once would have been able to walk ten miles, was left unable to walk ten steps. He was unable to go to the toilet or in the shower unaided, and had to learn to brush his own teeth again. He was stripped of his confidence, and left "filled with anger and anxiety" ashamed to go out in public due to the scar which had been left on his head.
"I only remember speaking to Lucy outside the club but nothing apart from that," he said.
"They've changed my life forever. What I would say is just think before you do something stupid. I'm lucky to be alive. If the paramedics didn't arrive in time and without the surgeons in the Heath, I could have lost my life.
"It was frightening, and what I went through will always live with me. It has been completely life changing. Learning to accept the injuries that I have was the toughest part for me to be honest. When I think back about it now, it has made me so strong, I'm almost grateful for it. It brought a side of my character out that I didn't know I had."
Thomas, 23, of Rhodfa Sant Lu, Llwyncelyn, Porth, was convicted after trial by a jury of causing grievous bodily harm with intent and having an offensive weapon. Emery, 36, of Tuberville Street, Llwynpia, Tonypandy, was convicted by jury after trial of inflicting grievous bodily harm. Thomas was jailed for 13 years and Emery was jailed for three years.
"When I got to face them and read out my victim personal statement, that was massive for myself," he said.
"I was a bit nervous but once I saw them and read the statement out I was completely fine. It was tough, because I was still blind in one eye, but I felt a sigh of relief and I was very proud. To see those boys faces for them to realise they hadn't beaten me, and I was still there alive and kicking was priceless.
"I had seen what they looked like before. When they called Mr Thomas up, my heart racing, but once he came out and I saw him, I thought, this was the guy who beat me up, and I just thought, there is nothing I can't do now after facing you. When they were sentenced it was a massive sigh of relief. It felt like closure and that I could move on."
September 6, 2020 is not the only date Mr Harcombe has tattooed on his arm. He also has September 13, 2020, the date he woke up from his coma, May 27, 2021 - the date Thomas and Emery were found guilty - and June 18, 2021, the date they were sentenced. He also has 5710 and 3556 on his arm, the shoulder numbers of the police officers who brought the duo to justice. Mr Harcombe has shown incredible courage and determination to get his life back on track.
"The next steps for me were just to keep on training in the gym," he explained. "It kept me focused. I didn't realise however I'd have to have another head operation. It was swelling, so I went to see the neurosurgeon and she sent me for a scan. I had to have a bone removed in November last year, and I had to wait eight weeks to have a titanium plate put in.
"In November I was due to have my eye done, but that got cancelled, but I had a phone call in January of this year to say it will be going ahead in February, but it was cancelled again until March. I was in the Heath hospital and I was a nervous wreck, but it went ahead, and a couple of hours later I could see again. It was a cornea transplant. I had an infection and scarring on my eye which had to be removed. I can remember coming out of surgery and I woke up and realised I could see my dad. It was an amazing moment. It was quite emotional to be honest."
Remarkably, the now 27-year-old is currently training to take part in the Cardiff 10k on September 4, just shy of two years since he was attacked. And there could be good news on the horizon too in terms of getting him back into work.
"It is a bit of a milestone," he said. "My running has come on loads in the last two months. All I'm doing training wise at the moment is walking and running. I don't want to go back in the pool until I see the doctors again because of chlorine.
"I'm quite pally with my boss, and there could be a position opening up for me in the office, which would be great for myself at the minute. I have to speak to the DVLA about driving again, that's the next challenge for myself.
"I've been advised that I could go back to play rugby, but I've decided not to due to the rate of head injuries. I have done my coaching qualifications and I'm looking at the walking rugby. I coached the under 16s for Porth Harlequins this year, it has been great to be back amongst it. I had quite a lot of satisfaction from coaching.
"I've tried to train as much as I can which has helped loads with my mental health and my outlook on life. I listen to motivational speeches, because my mental health was pretty poor. I had counselling last year and it did help me a lot.
Mr Harcombe has told his story on social media, and has found that his road to recovery has been a motivation to others around the world who are going through a similar experience.
He added: "I have my Instagram page and I've had lots of people messaging me explaining how much I've helped them getting back walking and their mental health, so it's massive satisfaction for myself. There were days I thought something like this would never happen for me again, but I had to keep reminding myself not to give up now."