The Greatest Showman star Keala Settle has revealed that she suffered a ministroke in the lead-up to her powerhouse performance of This Is Me at the 2018 Oscars.
The actor and singer, who played The Bearded Lady in the blockbuster musical, revealed to People magazine that she had been diagnosed with a rare cerebrovascular disorder called Moyamoya disease just days out from this year's ceremony.
Settle, who was raised in Hawaii but has Māori heritage and family still in New Zealand, explained that she'd been feeling off during the worldwide promotional tour for Showman in the weeks leading up to the Oscars.
"I was completely rundown," the 43-year-old told the magazine. "I had gotten food poisoning in Tokyo, I was fighting a cold. I barely had anything left to give."
It all came to a head during a rehearsal in Burbank, California, where the star wound up having a nervous breakdown on set, where she felt shooting pain in her skull and had the entire right side of her body go numb.
"It was like someone cracked an egg on the top of my head and then drew a line on my body, turning one half off," Settle said.
"My body started drooping immediately. I tried to put my hands up to my face, but I could only move my left arm. I couldn't talk because part of my tongue was immobile. I tried to stand, but there was nothing.
"I was panicked. I let out this wail because I was so scared and the room went silent. All I could figure out how to say was 'Help'."
Settle later discovered that she'd suffered from a transient ischaemic attack, or a "ministroke", which produces similar symptoms to a regular stroke.
A series of scans concluded that half of Settle's brain had been blocked from blood flow and oxygen for years due to collated carotid arteries — meaning she'd essentially been a ticking time bomb.
"It could have happened at any time," said Settle. "It just so happened to happen a week before the biggest performance of my life."
The Broadway star adopted the long-established "show must go on" policy and decided to delay surgery in order to continue with her Oscars commitments, and only told a handful of people about the issue — including co-star Hugh Jackman, who Facetimed her daily for updates.
Following the showstopping performance, Settle finally had surgery in April, before undergoing months of recovery.
"I have a new brain and that's meant starting over," she explained.
"I needed a blood transfusion to help move, and then I spent the entire first month doing a lot of cognitive and physical therapy to relearn how to walk, talk, write, and live life again. I've been growing my memory, too. It's all a process and I'm still working on it daily."