The policeman shot in the face by gunman Raoul Moat has revealed that a childhood cricket injury saved his life.
Pc David Rathband, 42, was blasted at close range as he sat in his patrol car, causing him to lose the sight in both eyes.
The dedicated officer, who is determined to return to work for Northumbria Police despite his life-changing injuries, believed that banging his head as a child could have caused his skull to mend thicker than normal, allowing him to survive being peppered with gunshot.
As a 12-year-old he fell while playing cricket on a field at John Wheeldon School in Stafford and was knocked out.
He told the Evening Chronicle newspaper: "Where my head hit was exactly where I got shot.
"The fall must have allowed my head to grow an abnormal amount of bone."
He said doctors were shocked that his skull was not penetrated by the pellets, which would have killed him had they hit his brain.
The father-of-two was shot on a roundabout west of Newcastle on July 4, the day after crazed Moat shot his ex-lover Sam Stobbart and killed her new boyfriend Chris Brown.
Moat, 37, killed himself a week later following a stand-off with armed police in Rothbury, Northumberland.
Pc Rathband said he is determined to help other emergency service staff hurt in the line of duty and has started raising money for the cause. The organisation, after a recent name change, is known as Pc David Rathband's Blue Lamp Foundation.