"Big Steve" embraces life after severe brain bleed and three surgeries


"Too blessed to be stressed," is how Steve Mululu replies when asked how he is. After months of headaches, and eventually losing his sight and balance, Steven Mululu was diagnosed with a severe brain haemorrhage. He had three risky brain surgeries in six weeks to stop the bleeding.

After undergoing three brain surgeries in the space of six weeks to stop a severe brain haemorrhage, Steve Mululu, a 55-year-old fitness professional, has new outlook on life.

"I'm not a sickly person," says Steve. "So in November 2022 when I started getting headaches, I ignored them, thinking it was just linked to stress. However, thinking back, I had to take two naps a day for the headaches to stay away - I even took a bed to work."

"The headaches got worse and the only thing that relieved the pressure in my head was to vomit. My doctor just told me I was working too hard. I don't think I'd made clear how bad I actually felt."

"But by February I kept losing my balance. And then I lost my sight. I knew something was seriously wrong, but I was scared to know what it was."

"And, while I was arguing with the doctor, I had my first fit."

Steve went to casualty at a nearby hospital where they did a CT scan. "The doctor saw a lot of grey on the scan and asked to do an MRI. After that a brain surgeon came in and told me I needed to go to ICU right away," recalls Steve.

"He said: 'You don't have much time. You have a massive haemorrhage and it's not just on one side, it's across your entire brain. You are raining blood and your brain is under a lot of stress. We need to operate.' The surgeon told me I had a 5% chance of survival, even with the surgery, because of the severity of the bleeding. He also said I was at risk of having a heart attack or stroke."

"I was in denial. I'm a healthy guy, I eat well, I exercise. I couldn't understand how this was happening. I told the doctor I needed a day to go home and think about it. He said: 'You don't have a day. You're very lucky you got here because one of two things are about to happen now - either your brain is going to explode or you're going to start getting seizures.'"

"And while I was arguing with the doctor, I had my first fit. All I remember is people running around. I could see everything that they were doing but had lost control of my body. After that I told the doctor he could do the surgery. I realised there was no way I wanted to risk my life and also live with regular fits."

Watch Big Steve's story here

Three brain surgeries in quick succession

The first surgery

The next morning Steve had his first surgery to drain the blood from his brain. "My strength had always been physical - most people call me 'Big Steve'. But at that point I didn't know what life would be like after surgery - whether I'd be in a wheelchair and if I would be able to exercise. I was forced to find strength in spirituality, and I asked the nurses to pray with me. After that, my fear left me."

The second surgery

Steve spent 10 days in ICU after the first operation, but the bleeding didn't stop. "I had a second surgery and they put in another drain. Between the two operations, they drained about 2,5 litres of blood from my head," says Steve.

"Unfortunately, 10 days after the second surgery my bleeding still hadn't stopped and the surgeon said they needed to operate again. I started getting scared and felt my mind - my thoughts - were turning against me. After begging the doctors, they let me go home for a week to recalibrate before the third surgery."

The third surgery

"When I arrived back at the hospital I could see that everyone around me looked worried. Having brain surgery three times is never a good thing and I'd already been incredibly lucky to go in twice and come out without long-term impacts."

"The third operation was meant to be the easiest one, but it turned out to be the most difficult. It was the longest operation. I struggled to come out of the anaesthetic and my blood pressure dropped to 60/40 mm Hg (normal blood pressure is around 120/80 mm Hg). Steve spent two more weeks in hospital before being discharged."

"I wanted to live"

"When I left hospital, I couldn't even walk for a full minute. I could only stand for 10 seconds at a time. And, I left hospital with many phobias. My biggest fear was of getting seizures again and that gave me anxiety."

"I came back to work after I left the hospital because I wanted to live, and I had to do what living people do. If I'd stayed in bed, I would've wasted away. I needed a routine, but I did things within reason. At my first day back at work, my landlord kicked me out of the office and told me to go home. She was scared I would over-exert myself. Everybody was watching me like a hawk to make sure I'd be okay."

Steve soon began exercising again. "I started training for five minutes at a time and increasing it little by little. Now, around three months post my third surgery, I'm training for 30 minutes and feeling so good." "I look at the world through very different lenses than before. The way I measure success has changed. In hospital, my goal was to be without a catheter or to be able to walk from my bed to the toilet without three people supporting me. I am noticing amazing new things for the first time."


"Steve thanks Discovery Health Medical Scheme for giving him peace of mind"

Steve was so grateful to be a Discovery Health Medical Scheme member during his ordeal. He posted several times on social media, thanking the Scheme.

"All the claims that the doctor submitted were approved and paid. It gave me such peace of mind that I could focus on my recovery and not have financial stress when I was busy fighting for my life. There were no hassles through the entire experience"


Steve shares four pieces of wisdom to inspire courage in the face of trauma

"Steve has this advice for other people who are going through traumatic events:

"Many people exercise for cosmetic reasons, for vanity. But my doctors told me that if I hadn't been so fit, I wouldn't have done so well during the surgeries. I see regular exercise and consistently building physical fitness as an investment into my future life span and health."

"Your mind is so important. When the doctor told me I had a 5% chance of surviving, my response was that I'm going to be among the 5% that survives. I had to change my self-talk and become my own cheerleader to overcome the external forces that were turning my thoughts against me and causing me to lose hope."

"Embrace change and realise that it's often necessary because it forces us to grow. The one thing we can be sure of is change. Accept it. Breathe. Be where you are. Every hard step is necessary. Just keep doing your best. What's meant to be, will be."

"You need support. I had so many people visiting me in hospital. You don't realise how much this means - it gives you a reason to want to live."

Log in

Please click here to login into Discovery Digital Id

Please click here to login into Discovery Digital Id