Celebs who disappeared after an injury

Human beings are fragile — not just emotionally, but physically. It's remarkable that some of us last as long as 100 years in these imperfect meat sacks, with our most important organ perched atop the whole mess encased in a flimsy shell of calcium. Accidents do happen, of course, and they happen to everybody — even the rich, famous, attractive, and fabulous. Sometimes those accidents kill, and sometimes they just injure us. But the human spirit, and its desire to continue is incredibly strong, as evidenced by these celebrities who were nearly destroyed by potentially fatal or serious accidents…only to rise up and make art again.

Paula Abdul

Thanks to provocative videos ("Cold Hearted") and her classic duet with a rapping cat ("Opposites Attract"), former "Laker Girl" Paula Abdul was right up there with Madonna and Janet Jackson in the pantheon of early '90s female pop stars. But after one last album in 1995, Abdul "straight up" disappeared. 

It wasn't so much because of changing tastes — an injury precluded her from touring or promoting her music as much as she would have liked. In 1992, Abdul was on a plane that had a rough emergency landing (she calls it a "crash") that left her with physical damage that required extensive medical attention. "I had four plates and 14 cervical spinal surgeries," Abdul told Today. "It all happened during the time that I disappeared and no one knew where I went." After a handful of public appearances, Abdul re-emerged in 2002 as the nice judge on American Idol.

Tracy Morgan

In June 2014, Saturday Night Live vet Tracy Morgan was doing the kind of thing Tracy Morgan does, which is ride in a "limo bus" on the New Jersey turnpike on the way back from a stand-up gig. Then the vehicle got hammered by a semi-truck. The crash killed one passenger — Morgan's friend, comedian James McNair — while Morgan suffered broken ribs, a broken leg, and a broken nose. (The driver, Kevin Roper, was speeding at 20 mph over the speed limit and had been awake for more than 24 hours at the time of impact.) While Morgan kept fans abreast of his progress, he didn't return to entertainment until October 2015…with a triumphant SNL hosting gig.

Gloria Estefan

A broken bone is painful, but for the most part, it just gets wrapped up in a cast, heals, and life goes on. That's not so true if any part of the back is broken. There's a pretty good chance that the injury involves damage to the spine, which means the very real and scary threat of paralysis. 

Superstar Gloria Estefan was onboard the Miami Sound Machine's tour bus in 1990 as it traversed the snowy Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. A truck ran into the bus, and roughly half a dozen people were rushed to a Scranton hospital, including Estefan's husband Emilio (for head and hand injuries), the Estefans' nine-year-old son Nayid (a neck injury), other members of the band, and the truck's driver. Estefan was listed in stable condition, but suffered a broken vertebra along her spinal column. The good news: Her spine wasn't severed. The bad news: It left her in unbelievable pain. 

Recovery was slow and difficult, but almost a year later, Estefan re-emerged on the American Music Awards in January 1991 to perform her appropriately titled comeback hit, "Coming Out of the Dark."

Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve did a lot of acclaimed acting work, but for millions, he'll always be Superman (or, if he had glasses on, Clark Kent). He was also a horse enthusiast, and the pursuit of that hobby would change Reeve's life. 

While riding in the Commonwealth Dressage and Combined Training Association finals in Virginia in May 1995, a jump didn't go right and Reeve fell off his horse, landing on his head. He was paralyzed from the neck down, and he required extensive rehabilitation and a respirator for the rest of his life. Amazingly, Reeve returned to the screen. In addition to raising funds for spinal cord injury research via the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, he starred in a 1998 made-for-TV remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, wrote his memoirs, and co-directed the animated movie Everyone's Hero, which was released a year and a half after Reeve's death in 2004.

Sharon Stone

Sharon Stone, a sex symbol for her work in movies like Basic Instinct, Sliver, and The Specialist, nearly died in 2001. The actress got a headache so bad that she thought she'd had a brain hemorrhage — so she sought medical attention, as one should. It turns out it wasn't a hemorrhage, it was maybe worse: a potentially deadly aneurysm. 

Fortunately, Stone didn't die, but the experience took a tremendous toll. "I had to learn to walk, hear, write, talk, remember, and everything all over again," she told Oprah's Master Class. "You know, death isn't all it's cracked up to be. Everything got rich for me through this experience. Everything got better for me through this experience." Just a couple of years later, her career was back in gear again.

Dylan O'Brien

After paying his dues on MTV's hit teenage werewolf series Teen Wolf, O'Brien landed the starring role of Thomas in The Maze Runner, a film series based on James Dashner's dystopian YA books. On the set of the third Maze movie, The Death Cure, in 2016, O'Brien was filming a stunt when he was pulled from one moving vehicle and got hit by another one. He suffered a slew of brutal injuries, including a facial fracture, a concussion, and some brain trauma. 

Production on The Death Cure, which had just started, was indefinitely delayed while O'Brien healed. It took him six months to get healthy again, during which the actor debated if he even wanted to return to show biz. "I really was in a dark place there for a while and it wasn't an easy journey back," he told Vulture. "There was a time there where I didn't know if I would ever do it again." He did, of course, do it again, co-starring in the 2017 movie American Assassin as well as a little 2018 release called The Maze Runner: The Death Cure.

Niki Taylor

Niki Tyler was one of the most famous models of the early 1990s, notably as the frequent face of Cover Girl. In April 2001, she was riding with her friend James Renegar in Atlanta when he glanced down at his cell phone, lost control of the car, and hit a pole. By the time Taylor arrived at a hospital, where doctors discovered the accident had split her liver in half, Taylor had lost more than 75 percent of her blood. She also flatlined in the ER — twice. 

"I wanted to get back and see my twin boys," Taylor later recalled of the drive that kept her hanging on — referring to her kids, just six years old at the time. It took a lot of blood from more than 300 donors — along with the implantation of metal rods in Taylor's back — and a lengthy rehabilitation process to help Taylor recover; as she later admitted, "It took years before I felt 100 percent." (There was also the long, difficult process of getting off the painkillers she'd been prescribed.) Amazingly, Taylor still returned to modeling the next year, appearing on the cover of Allure in 2002.

Carrie Underwood

Just a week after co-hosting the CMA Awards in November of 2017, country star and American Idol winner Carrie Underwood suffered a nasty fall on some steps outside her home. According to her team, Underwood got some "cuts and abrasions" and also broke a wrist — doctors operated and inserted some kind of metal securing device. Underwood updated fans on Twitter, writing, "I just wanted to let everyone know that I'm doing great. Had surgery on my wrist yesterday & all went well … even though I'll be setting off airport metal detectors from now on." 

But in January 2018, Underwood revealed in a fan club letter that the accident had been more intense than she'd initially let on. "In addition to breaking my wrist, I somehow managed to injure my face as well. I'll spare you the gruesome details, but when I came out of surgery the night of my fall, the doctor told [Underwood's husband] Mike that he had put between 40 and 50 stitches in." She added that when she was "ready to get in front of a camera" again, she "might look a bit different." However, when Below Deck star Adrienne Gang saw Underwood at a gym, she took a picture and posted it on Twitter. Underwood looks…just like she always did.

Billy Idol

After scoring multi-platinum sales in the '80s as a radio-friendly punk rocker whose look — spiky bleached hair, leather jacket, sneer — became synonymous with that particular subculture, Billy Idol headed into the '90s with a lot of opportunities. He'd just finished recording an album called Charmed Life, and he reportedly had a role lined up as the evil T-1000 in James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day. A motorcycle crash — a collision with a car in Hollywood — in February 1990 severely interrupted that forward trajectory. 

Idol spent a day in the intensive care unit at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and endured seven hours of surgery to correct a fractured arm and an extremely broken leg. He lost his role in Terminator 2, and while he got better, he had to limit his musical duties. For example, while walking with the aid of a cane, he shot his scenes for the video for his hit single "Cradle of Love" from the waist up. Idol wouldn't release another album until 1993's Cyberpunk.

Curtis Mayfield

In August 1990, Curtis Mayfield took the stage for an outdoor concert in Brooklyn's Wingate Field. While about to run through all of his classic hits, both as a solo act and with the Impressions, such as "People Get Ready" and "Superfly," a gust of wind knocked loose an unsecured chunk of scaffolding holding some stage lights. A tower fell — right on Mayfield. The accident broke the soul legend's neck, and he was instantly paralyzed. While he could no longer play guitar, Mayfield discovered that he could still sing, but only while lying down — the pressure on his chest and lungs let the music flow, if only for a few minutes. It took him years, but in 1996, Mayfield released his final album, New World Order. A testament to the power of will, Mayfield recorded the LP one vocal line at a time. He passed away in 1999.