Bret Michaels, Hardy by Nature

The eternal rock star Bret Michaels won't even let a few near-death experiences keep him down.

Despite a brain hemorrhage, mini-stroke, emergency appendectomy, and a hole in his heart, the diabetic rocker returned to NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" on Sunday -- winning $250,000 for the American Diabetes Association -- and will continue with plans to tour this summer with his band, Poison.

"Bret is a very passionate person and refuses to live his life curled up in a ball," said Michaels' spokesperson, Janna Elias, in a press release Friday. "He wants to continue to live his life, enjoy every day and get back on the road," Elias said, but he will not take any "undo risks" on his speedy road to recovery.

Though Michaels credited his quick recovery to good medical care and a guardian angel in an NBC "Today Show" interview on Monday, the rocker's hardy spirit has a lot to do with his resilience, doctors and psychologists say.

"Bret is very strong in hardiness," says Salvatore Maddi, a professor of psychology and social behavior at University of California, Irvine, who studies psychological hardiness.

Maddi says hardiness is a pattern of attitudes and coping skills that allows a person to turn into growth opportunities. He says hardy people not only handle stress with grace, but they thrive on it.

"I wasn't surprised at all when [Michaels] came back after the hemorrhage and won [on the Apprentice]," Maddi says, because he shows all the signs of being "strong in hardiness."

In Recovery to Rock On

Michaels' went through a shocking series of health problems following an emergency appendectomy this April that has had him in and out of the hospital.

On April 22, ten days after his appendix was removed, Michaels suffered a subarachnoid brain hemorrhage, which led to potentially-fatal bleeding in his brain.

"Strokes are difficult, but brain hemorrhage is one of the problems that literally strikes fear into the hearts of doctors," says Emerson University neurologist, Dr. Wendy Wright. "He's certainly a tough cookie," she says, to be up and around so soon afterwards.

Health Problems Mount for Michaels

Just last week, Michaels was forced to return to the hospital when he experienced numbness on his left side, according to a release on his website. He had suffered a transient ischemic attack, otherwise known as a warning or "mini" stroke, possibly due to a hole in his heart that was found shortly afterward.

This hole, known medically as patent foramen ovale, occurs in about 20 percent of the population but rarely produces symptoms.

When it does create a problem, doctors will consider blood thinners -- which Elias says Michaels is currently on -- and surgery to plug the hole, Dr. Robert Brown, chair of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told

Luckily for Michaels, he added, he did exactly the right thing by seeking immediate medical attention.

Despite all these medical issues, Michaels not only returned to the "Celebrity Apprentice," but he won. Now he has his sights set on getting back to the rigorous schedule of a summer tour with his band.

"I'm not back 100 percent yet," Michaels told the "Today Show." He admitted that his doctors said it wasn't "a great idea" for him to be back on the show, but he said that his drive and ambition keep him from taking his health problems lying down.

Hard Rock Lessons in Hard Knocks

Though he has never spoken with Michaels, Maddi says that its clear from his public appearances and behavior on his reality shows that the rock star is a prime example of psychological hardiness.

Maddi, who has studied hardiness for decades, says that it is characterized by the belief that life comes with stressful circumstances built in. With this perspective, hardy people often view the hard knocks in life, not only as normal, but as lessons in gratitude and insight.

This is evident from the way Michaels deals with stress on "Apprentice," Maddi says, and the way he handled his return to the show after his stroke.

Michaels also displayed this mindset in a note to his fans he posted to his website soon after the stroke. Instead of bemoaning his condition, he writes: "Events like this certainly put life into perspective."

Handling setbacks with humor and taking comfort in close personal relationships are two other markers of a hardy individual that Michaels clearly displays, Maddi says.

"I laugh about a lot of things," the rock star told "Today." "That's how I defend myself."

Hardy or Just Medically Foolhardy?

Considering the extensive health concerns facing the "Rock of Love" star, this can-do attitude can be both an asset and a hazard, neurologists say.

Is Michaels at risk of pushing himself too hard, too soon?

"Recovery is very individualized," Wright says, so while "it's very ambitious to be back in the thick of things at this point, it's fine as long as it's the result of a conscientious decision between Michaels and his doctors."

Luckily, warning strokes are just that -- an alert to assess the patient. They do not normally cause permanent damage, Wright says, so it's possible that this most recent medical trauma will not be as hard to bounce back from.

And in general, a driven, goal-oriented personality tends to help recovery, Wright says, so Michaels' energy and good attitude -- when not unreasonably overzealous -- can work in his favor.

Michaels' hardiness also makes it more likely that he will do everything necessary to recover, Maddi says, including acknowledging his limits. Returning to daily activity is not necessarily ill-advised, because Michaels will most likely be itching to get back in the game, but also savvy as to what he needs to do to ensure he stays there.

But of course, it's a balancing act.

"Medically speaking, it is a fantastic attitude, both mentally and physically, for him to have, [but] Bret's brain and body are not quite 100 percent yet," said Dr. Joseph Zabramski, Michaels' neurosurgeon, in a statement on Michaels' website.

"I'm a huge Poison fan, so I'm hoping for the best recovery time because I want to see him on tour," Wright says, "but that requires him to take the time he needs to get back to health."