Coronation Street star Charlie Lawson has told RTÉ Radio 1's Ray D'Arcy Show that he is "very lucky" to be alive after suffering a stroke onstage in Edinburgh last year and now respects his life "a great deal more than I did before".

The 60-year-old Northern Irish actor - known to millions as Corrie's Jim McDonald - was a guest on Thursday's show, where he discussed his work as a spokesperson for the Stroke Association in the UK.

He recounted his terrifying experience, which occurred while he was touring with the detective mystery Rebus: Long Shadows.

"It was October 13 it happened," said Lawson. "About three weeks prior to that I'd been diagnosed with exhaustion. Rebus was a monumental part; it was 108 pages - and I was in 108 of them.

"What happened was - without going into too much detail - the relationship that I should have had with the guy in charge was not what it should have been and I decided that I was just going to keep shtum and get on with what I was doing. Several things happened in Birmingham while we were getting ready to open, which I allowed get to me, and I hadn't really slept for about six or seven weeks. 

"We opened to great notices and I got great reviews so off we went. [I] Did two more weeks in Birmingham and then went up to Edinburgh. In the middle of the second half on the opening night I was onstage with Big John Stahl.

"All of a sudden everything went blue. I went deaf. Initially I knew something was happening but I had no idea what it was and then I had no idea where I was and what I was meant to be doing. It was very strange. [There were] Very loud noises in my head." 

"And the next thing I remember being in the wings and about 20 minutes later I was fine," Lawson recalled. "Off to hospital, heart was fine, all the arteries, bowel, major stuff. And then into the scan for the MRI and out I came the other side and they said: 'Yep, you've had a TIA [Transient Ischemic Attack]', which is a mini stroke.

"So I had two shows off and then I went back and finished the tour which was about another hundred shows or whatever. But I was very lucky. I was alright, Ray - you know what I mean?"

Describing himself as "a mini stroke survivor", Lawson became involved with the Stroke Association after realising that strokes "can happen across the board" and affect different age groups.

"I'm fitter than I was 10 years ago," he said. "What I've learned from it really is just to respect my life a bit more. Look, I'm no advert for healthy living for God's sake! Everybody knows I've had a life-and-a-half and I still love red wine, I still love fine food. But I don't ignore my alarm bells and I have a bit more respect for my life than I had before.

"I happen to be famous, so if I can help the Stroke Association by raising awareness of the fact and just getting people... Even if you just Google it, for God's sake. It'll just give you an insight into how many people are affected by stroke, how many survive, and how much more help people need to progress through stroke and survive and get better. Because you can get 100 per cent better, although of course there are tragic circumstances and people just don't make it or their lives are completely ruined."

Admitting that he "hadn't really" changed his lifestyle, Lawson said he told the Stroke Association: 'Don't be holding me up as a fine example of how you should live your life health-wise, because I love life too much'. 

"But I respect it now a great deal more than I did before," he added.

Lawson recently celebrated 30 years of playing Corrie's Jim McDonald and was asked about making a return to the Cobbles for more drama of the heart with long-suffering ex-wife Liz, played by Beverley Callard.

   

 "Will they live happy ever after eventually?" inquired D'Arcy.

"God, who knows?" laughed Lawson. "They are like the Burton and Taylor of Weatherfield!

"People would love the McDonalds to get back [together]. But it's largely down to the writers. If they come up with something that works, well then I hope it will happen."

If you have been affected by issues raised in this article, please visit: www.rte.ie/helplines.

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