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Celebrities can sometimes seem larger than life — as if they’re genetically blessed superhumans bestowed with the gifts of immense talent, glowing skin, straight teeth and perfect health. But in reality, famous people are not invincible. They experience the same adversities and tragedies as the rest of us. In fact, in the past few years, several celebs have braved extremely frightening near-death medical issues. Here are 12 celebrity health scares that kept us on our toes.
1. Selena Gomez’s Kidney Transplant
After being diagnosed with the autoimmune disease lupus five years ago and ignoring the pain and fatigue to focus on her rigorous career, Selena Gomez started experiencing kidney deterioration and needed a transplant. While coming to the top of the transplant wait list normally takes between seven to 10 years, Gomez found a donor in her best friend, Francia Raisa. However, following the surgery, Gomez’s new kidney began turning around inside her body, so she endured a second six-hour surgery. Opening up on “Today,” the star admitted, “I got to the point where it was really kind of life or death…. I don’t think what we went through was easy.”
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2. Kate Walsh’s Brain Tumor
Last year, actress Kate Walsh went public with her 2015 brain tumor diagnosis. At the time, she explained, she’d had difficulty concentrating and suffered from exhaustion and bouts of mental confusion, which lead to a visit to the neurologist for an MRI. Three days after discovering the tumor, which was the size of a small lemon, the actress underwent surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center In Los Angeles. On the experience, she told ABC Radio podcast No Limits With Rebecca Jarvis, “Most people who go through a major health scare or crisis like that, it’s very cliche and trite, but it forces you to assess your life if you haven’t already.”
The tumor ended up being noncancerous (called a meningioma), but it turned Walsh into a passionate health advocate. She partnered up with health insurance company Cigna on a campaign calling on people to advocate for their own health.
3. Elton John’s Bacterial Infection
As a Grammy, Academy Award and Golden Globe recipient (not to mention an accomplished AIDS activist), 70-year-old English pianist Sir Elton John seems unstoppable. However, in April 2017, the legend had to cancel six Las Vegas Caesars Palace residency shows after contracting a “potentially deadly” bacterial infection in South America.
In a statement released by his management, John became “violently ill” during a flight back to Britain from Santiago, Chile, where he performed a six-concert tour in various countries — including Brazil and Argentina. The statement also said: “Infections of this nature are rare and potentially deadly. Thankfully, Elton’s medical team identified this quickly and treated it successfully.” Upon recovery, the singer apologized for disappointing his loyal fans and praised his doctors by saying how extremely grateful he was to the medical team for their excellence.
4. Sarah Silverman’s Epiglottitis
Sarah Silverman almost uttered her last comedic words when she was admitted to the ICU at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai for five days in 2016. Initially, she thought she had a sore throat, but it turned out to be much more serious.
In her July 6 Facebook post, Silverman revealed that she had epiglottitis — a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the epiglottis (the “lid” that covers your windpipe) swells and blocks the flow of air into your lungs. She had to have surgery to fix it. She elaborated in her post, “They couldn’t put me fully to sleep for the recovery process because my blood pressure was too low. I was drugged just enough to not feel the pain and had no idea what was happening or where I was. They had to have my hands restrained to keep me from pulling out my breathing tube.”
5. Wendy Williams Passing Out on Live TV
Dressed as the Statue of Liberty for her 2017 Halloween episode, talk-show host Wendy Williams started shaking, stopped talking, lost her balance and passed out on live TV. After a six-minute commercial break Williams returned to the air, saying, “That was not a stunt. I’m overheated in my costume and did pass out. But you know what? I’m a champ. And I’m back.”
Williams elaborated on Deadline.com: “A lot of people thought it was a joke. Me fainting on my set. You know I don’t want to fall. I’m a tall woman, and it’s a long way down.” Paramedics found that she was low on electrolytes, but everything else checked out fine. Phew!
6. Serena Williams’ Blood Clots
Even though Serena Williams is in good health, her history of blood clots requires her to take blood thinners every day. However, after giving birth to daughter Olympia Alexa, the tennis superstar had to stop taking them in order for her C-section to heal.
Things turned dark the day after her daughter’s birth, when Williams started gasping in the recovery room and requested a CT scan. The medical team found several small clots and provided medication, but as the days went by, Williams’ condition got worse — culminating in a coughing fit that broke open her C-section wound. Then, during surgery, doctors found a large hematoma (clotted blood) in her abdomen, which required a second surgery. In January, Williams addressed her health complications in a Facebook post. “I personally want all women of all colors to have the best experience they can have. My personal experience was not great, but it was MY experience, and I’m happy it happened to me,” she wrote.
7. Kevin Smith’s Heart Attack
The filmmaker/actor/funnyman, best known for “Clerks” and “Mallrats,” sustained a massive heart attack in February while he was working on two shows for a comedy special. Initially, Smith felt nauseous and thought he had eaten something bad. But then he started sweating profusely and had difficulty breathing. Upon being rushed to Glendale Adventist Hospital, it was discovered that he had 100 percent blockage of his left anterior descending artery.
After his life was saved, Smith shared this emotional message on Facebook Live (which was also posted on CNN): “There was this moment where I’m like … I might die. So I just thought about everything. I thought about my parents and how they raised me, and my brother, my sister, my friends, my wife, my kid … and this weird, wonderful career I’ve had for so long, and I was content.”
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8. Maria Menounos’ Brain Tumor
In February 2017, Maria Menounos started having health issues while she was helping her mother through stage 4 brain cancer recovery. Menounos was getting lightheaded on the set and experiencing headaches as well as slurring her words and having difficulty reading the teleprompter.
An MRI revealed the TV personality had a golf ball-size meningioma that was pushing on her facial nerves. During a complex, seven-hour removal surgery, the doctor was able to remove 99.9 percent of the tumor, which was found to be benign. Post-recovery, she told People, “We’re caretakers as women, and we put ourselves last. I tell people all the time if your car is making a weird noise, you take it to the mechanic. How come when our body is making weird noises, we ignore it?”
9. Sean Hayes’ Split Small Intestine
Late last year, Sean Hayes of “Will and Grace” went on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” to explain why he’d had to cancel on her a few weeks before: His small intestine burst open and was “poisoning his body.”
“I went to bed and all of the sudden I felt this excruciating pain in my stomach,” he described. The condition, known as a spontaneous perforation, could result in a life-threatening infection called sepsis if not treated right away. The fix, according to Hayes? The doctors simply “clipped off the bad part and put it back together with, like, a chip clip.” Easy peasy.
10. Solange Knowles’ Autonomic Disorder
On New Year’s Eve of last year, Knowles had to suddenly cancel her headline appearance at the AfroPunk Festival in Johannesburg, Africa. The talented singer and DJ took to Instagram to explain the reason: “The past five months I have been quietly treating and working through an autonomic disorder,” she wrote. “It’s been a journey that hasn’t been easy on me.”
While she did not go into detail about her disorder (save for calling it a “complicated diagnosis”), some common symptoms of an autonomic nerve disorder include dizziness and fainting, sweating abnormalities and digestive difficulties.
11. Robbie Williams’ Brain Abnormalities
After becoming seriously ill while backstage at a gig, Williams’ doctors found what looked like blood on his brain — leading to a weeklong stay in the ICU. The 43-year-old singer told The Sun that his left arm went numb, he was dribbling out of the side of his mouth and he couldn’t get a full breath.
A former addict (now 18 years sober), Williams admitted that the terrifying health scare has made him re-evaluate his life. He explained, “Once you’ve been on the planet for 43 years, you realize that, even if you’ve got everything that I have, you’re not invincible. So from now on I’m going to look after myself a lot more carefully.”
Read more: 20 Celebrities Who Have Battled Cancer
12. Bob Seger’s Pinched Spinal Cord
Three weeks into his Runaway Train tour, Bob Seger’s hands started tingling and became numb. After getting an MRI, doctors discovered that the 72-year old had ruptured a disc in his neck, and his spinal cord was severely pinched. While he was given the green light to continue performing, Seger’s doctors warned him to run straight for the emergency room if he started dragging his leg — which ended up happening soon after.
Seger nixed his remaining tour dates for a cervical laminectomy — a spinal operation that’s designed to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. Seger’s version of the procedure goes through the back of one’s neck in order to steer clear of the larynx. In an interview with Billboard, Seger said, “The pain is down; I’d say it’s one out of 10, but it’s constant.” He added, “They said it was going to really hurt for about three months afterwards.”
What Do YOU Think?
Which one of these celebrity health scares alarmed or shocked you the most? Have you known anyone who has experienced any of these near-death conditions? Share your stories in the comments below!