Gillian Wright, 59, who plays Jean Slater on the BBC’s EastEnders, shocked fans when she opened up about a terrifying illness which almost left her for dead. Gillian’s character has been dealing with her own health problems on screen lately after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. But in 2016, the actress revealed she’d been struck down the year before by a shock sickness and rushed to hospital. She was told by doctors she was lucky to be alive after experiencing “unbelievable” stomach pains.
“It was touch and go,” she told the Sunday Mirror.
“It’s no exaggeration to say I had a real brush with death.”
Gillian’s ordeal began with a sharp pain in her stomach that didn’t go away.
She said: “I suddenly felt this sharp pain in my stomach and it didn’t go away.
“I made it home, a neighbour dialled 999 and I was whisked to hospital.”
After undergoing some tests, the star was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis.
Acute pancreatitis is a condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed over a short period of time.
While the majority of cases show improvements within a week, some can lead to serious complications and even prove fatal.
There are a number of causes associated with the condition, including gallstones and alcohol consumption.
She added: “I was so ill my parents flew down from the Highlands of Scotland to look after me. And my sister, Lois, and nephew, Stanley, were frantic.
“The pain was unbearable. If somebody had given me the choice of living with that pain a day longer or swallowing a pill to end it all, I’d have taken the tablet.
“No question. It was unbelievable.”
To ease her pain, Gillian was prescribed morphine, but she suffered side effects including hallucinations as a result.
She said: “It makes you as high as a kite. One night, I was found at the foot of a bed giving a Shakespearean monologue.
“The poor woman suddenly woke and blurted out ‘Oh my God, it’s Jean Slater and she’s having one of her funny turns.’”
But a year later Gillian had made a full recovery, adding at the time: “It was a close call.”
Symptoms of acute pancreatitis
There are seven symptoms associated with the condition, according to the NHS.
- Feeling or being sick (vomiting)
- A high temperature of 38C or more (fever)
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Tenderness or swelling of the tummy
- Fast heartbeat (tachycardia)