'Kuya' Kim Atienza has been a born-again Christian for almost a year. Photo by Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBNNews.com
MANILA -- Television host Kim "Kuya Kim" Atienza has become a household name, appearing in morning, noon, and evening shows. He even has his own educational show on Sundays, making him popular as "Philippine's Trivia King."
Amid his popularity, Atienza almost died twice -- he suffered a stroke in 2010, and was diagnosed with a rare disease in late 2013.
He said Jesus has always been his friend, but it was only last year when he accepted him as his Lord and Savior.
"Ako po si Kuya Kim, born-again Christian, nagbabasa ng Bible. A year ago, you wouldn't catch me saying that," he said during an ABS-CBN Christian Fellowship on Thursday.
He recalled that he used to tell his co-hosts, Donita Rose and Rica Peralejo, not to lay hands on him while he's sleeping.
Both Rose and Peralejo are born-again Christians and Atienza, who was raised Catholic, was not interested in being converted.
Six years and two near-death experiences later, Atienza changed his mind.
'Kuya' Kim Atienza speaking at an ABS-CBN Christian Fellowship on Thursday. Photo by Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBNNews.com
Unprepared for death
Atienza recalled a morning in 2010 when he suffered a stroke. It happened around 8:00 in the morning, while he was preparing to go to work.
He is one of the hosts of the noontime show "It's Showtime", which had just been on air for three months at the time.
Atienza said he was in the shower when he "lost his mind."
However, he was able to get out of the bathroom and ask for help. His first instinct was to ask his helpers to call his wife.
The stroke affected the left frontal lobe of his brain, robbing him of the ability to speak.
For five minutes, he just ran around their house. He was able to put on his pants and go out of their house where his driver is.
"Nakakalakad ako, pero nabura ang isip ko," Atienza recalled.
His driver brought him to the nearest hospital, and called his wife. Within three hours since the stroke, he was transferred to Makati Medical Center where he was given medication.
"Sana hindi pa ako mamatay. I asked Him not to take me yet. If He will, I asked Him to give me five minutes to say the Act of Contrition," he said.
After three days in the hospital, Atienza was able to regain around 60% to 70% of his brain activity. A few months later, he was completely mobile. He started running to regain as part of his therapy.
Soon, he was not only running, but he was also cycling and swimming. He became a triathlete in just a year after his stroke.
Atienza even signed up for a full Ironman triathlon, which consists of a 4-kilometer swim, a 180-km bike ride, and a 42-km run.
He was at the peak of his triathlon training when he suffered another blow.
The ABS-CBN Christian Fellowship with Kim Atienza, Nadia Montenegro, Dr. Hayden Kho, Donita Rose, Dyan Castillejo and Pastor Jesse Dedel. Photo by Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBNNews.com
In 2013, while training for the Ironman triathlon, Atienza's hands were paralyzed.
"As a stroke survivor, I immediately went to my doctor. Tinanong ko bakit hindi ko maigalaw ang kamay ko."
Atienza was first diagnosed with ulnar nerve entrapment and was given medicines. He continued with his training, not knowing that he was suffering from a more serious condition.
"I ran for 36 kilometers. On my 20th kilometer, I fell. Nagtaka ako, hindi naman ako lampa, bakit ako nadapa?" he said.
Atienza soon realized that his toes have been paralyzed, causing him to fall. Going back to his doctor, he was soon advised to undergo several tests.
Atienza learned that he was suffering from a rare condition called Guillain Barre syndrome, which causes paralysis. His doctor told him to be immediately admitted at a hospital and gave him medicines to cure the symptoms of the disease.
While he was at the hospital, Atienza admitted that he started questioning God.
"I was emotional. Sabi ko: Lord, ano ba 'to? Binigyan mo ako ng stroke, pinagaling mo ako. Tumakbo ako, naging triathlete ako, at the peak of my training, na-paralyze ako," he said.
It was at that moment that another Kapamilya, Karen Davila, visited him. Catching him at a vulnerable moment, he started opening up to Davila.
"It was when I realized, His Grace is all I need." he said. "Ang matra sa Ironman, I can. I can, I can, I can. Pauulit-ulit 'yun. But that moment, I realized, I can't."
It was this realization that led him to call his Christians friends and ask them for help.
Atienza was baptized as a born-again Christian in last January. He is part of Victory Christian Fellowship, along with other celebrities.
Looking back, he considered his illness as the best thing that happened to him.
"The best thing that happened to me was to get sick, because when I was weak, that's when I saw God's grace," he said.