October 3, 2011 | 11:20 AM ET
‘Hercules’ star Kevin Sorbo’s secret strokes: ‘I went through two years of hell”
“Hercules” hunk Kevin Sorbo may have been the epitome of muscle-bound masculinity during the run of his popular superhero show in the 1990s, but now Sorbo reveals that he had suffered from a series of debilitating strokes during the filming of the successful series.
“I had several doctors on my publicity tour check me out, but they didn’t believe it was anything serious,” Sorbo explained to Neurology Now of the aching and tingling he felt in his left arm and hand during a promotional tour in 1997. “I even had what seemed like a rational explanation, having recently injured my ulnar nerve—the funny bone.”
Convinced that the symptoms were benign, Sorbo continued his rigorous workout schedule until he felt a shooting pain down his left shoulder. He went to see his chiropractor later that day.
“After an examination, he told me I had a lot of tightness in my neck and shoulder,” Sorbo said. “Then he cracked my neck, which he had never done before, saying he felt the manipulation would help alleviate some of the tension.”
Driving home from the chiropractor, Sorbo experienced blurry vision, dizziness and buzzing in his head – the classic signs of a stroke.
The next morning, Sorbo was rushed to the hospital by his fiancee, who was terrified when he woke up, slurring his speech and barely able to walk. It turns out the actor had suffered from an aneurysm.
“Apparently, the aneurysm had been producing blood clots for some time,” said Sorbo. “I had blockages all down my arm that were making my fingers cold, tingly, and numb.”
Weeks later, Sorbo returned to the set of “Hercules,” but continued to suffer from vision problems and fatigue. Producers, not wanting to hurt their popular franchise, went to great lengths to conceal the severity of Sorbo’s condition, including bringing on a series of guest stars and hastily rewriting scripts.
“I felt like I had been transformed overnight from a youthful, carefree jock into someone who needed to grasp the backs of chairs and counters for an arduous five-yard trip to the bathroom,” Sorbo said.
Sorbo endured years of physical therapy, and was often discouraged by his slow progress. “I went through two years of hell before I began to feel like myself again,” Sorbo says. “I was depressed and frustrated and had a bad attitude.”
The depression was debilitating for Sorbo, and he found that he was sensitive to the side effects of various anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication. Finally, Sorbo found relief through a combination of psychotherapy and acupuncture.
“As a result of working with an acupuncturist, I improved dramatically,” Sorbo says. “My headaches and dizziness were less severe and more manageable as well.”
Today, Sorbo has returned to an active lifestyle. He also wrote a book chronicling his ordeal, “True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal and How Nearly Dying Saved My Life.”
Sorbo credits his wife, Sam Jenkins, who stood by him throughout his experience and his strong religious faith for his hard-fought recovery.
“My illness made me special in a way that I never wanted nor expected,” Sorbo explained. “I’m not Hercules; I’m a mere mortal with human limitations and problems. But I am determined to not behave like a victim anymore.”