Photo Credit: Todd Williamson/WireImag
The fact that Kevin Sorbo portrayed the heavily muscled demigod Hercules from 1994 to 1999 on the WB's hit Hercules: The Legendary Journeys might have led fans to assume that he was in the prime of his health. But the 53-year-old actor reveals in his new book True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal and How Nearly Dying Saved My Life that he actually suffered from an aneurysm and three strokes during that time.
As Sorbo tells Neurology Now, he began experiencing troubling symptoms, such as intermittent pain, aching, tingling and cold sensations in his left arm and hand, while working out to achieve his Herculean physique for the TV series back in the summer of 1997.
Despite frequent trips to the doctor and continued symptoms, Sorbo, who was then 38, was told that what he was experiencing was benign and would pass. Things took a turn for the worse, however, when he suffered a searing pain shooting down his left shoulder during one workout. Sorbo went to his chiropractor, who cracked his neck (something the actor had never done before) in an attempt to alleviate some of the tension.
As a result, Sorbo experienced blurry vision, dizziness and buzzing in his head. Actress Sam Jenkins, who was his Sorbo's fiancée at the time and is now his wife, quickly took Sorbo to the hospital, which is where he learned that he'd had an aneurysm in an artery near his shoulder and had suffered several strokes as a result.
"Apparently, the aneurysm had been producing blood clots for some time. I had blockages all down my arm that were making my fingers cold, tingly, and numb," Sorbo tells Neurology Now. "I began to wonder whether having my neck cracked had somehow exacerbated my condition."
His doctors described him as something of a medical anomaly, and still aren't sure about the precise cause of his strokes.
"I was told clots don't typically travel 'upstream' -- in reverse to the brain -- so my doctors were unsure whether the aneurysm was related to the strokes," he says.
According to Sorbo's doctors, someone of his age and physical health had about a 1-in-75-million chance of experiencing both an aneurysm and strokes. And the road to recovery wasn't an easy one.
"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 recalls. "I went through two years of hell before I began to feel like myself again. I was depressed and frustrated and had a bad attitude."