Celebs Who Had Medical Mishaps

The following article includes mentions of addiction and depression.

Lots of stars have quietly struggled through medical issues. While some thankfully weren't too serious, others were quite grave, even fatal. Celebs like Chadwick Boseman and David Bowie secretly dealt with cancer and didn't have their diagnoses shared with the world until after their respective deaths. Other stars like Selena Gomez, who's long been open about health issues linked to her Lupus diagnosis, underwent major procedures in private — in the singer-actor's case, a kidney transplant — before revealing to fans that anything was wrong. Basically, while many famous faces are known to share even the most intimate details of their lives, many beloved actors, singers, and athletes understandably keep matters of their healthcare to themselves.

Of course, most who live the lifestyle of the rich and famous have access to the greatest medical care on the planet — and therefore, they're often put back in good health with their medical issues resolved before we even hear that anything was wrong. Some, however, have unfortunately experienced strange medical mishaps that have left a handful of fan-favorite stars with lasting health issues for which to care and manage. While some of the following mishaps ultimately affected the stars' careers, others tragically ended lives. 

Let's take a look at some of the biggest celebrities who've had medical mishaps.

Dana Carvey had issues with his stent

Comedian Dana Carvey, best known for his work in the "Wayne's World" films and "Saturday Night Live," opened up to Bill Maher about his own medical mishap in December 2022. Carvey shared with the "Club Random Podcast" host that he has familial hypercholesterolemia, which the CDC explained "is a genetic disorder that affects about 1 in 250 people and increases the likelihood of having coronary heart disease at a younger age." 

After finding out he had a blocked artery, Carvey — whose chest pain and high cholesterol levels dated back to the late '90s — received a stent, but he then dealt with restenosis. Per WebMD, this medical issue "occurs when an artery that was opened with a stent or angioplasty becomes narrowed again" with scar tissue.

"They kept roto-rootering that," Carvey explained to Maher. "... This went on and on and on, and then finally they go, 'Well, you're a restenoser ... you probably should do a bypass.'" Per a 2014 report from The Washington Post, Carvey's heart condition finally improved after a fourth angioplasty, the first three of which were performed on the wrong artery. Of his heart condition these days, Carvey said at an American College of Cardiology conference, "It's about as good as I can get."

Linda Evangelista's plastic surgery went very wrong

Every medical procedure carries potential risks, but generally speaking, plastic surgery is considered to be safe when it's performed by a qualified physician, per the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Unfortunately, model Linda Evangelista is one of the few who dealt with rare complications from a cosmetic procedure, and the effects have greatly affected her quality of life. 

In February 2022, Evangelista opened up to People after undergoing CoolSculpting about six years prior. According to its website, this procedure is "FDA-cleared for the treatment of visible fat bulges in the submental (under the chin) and submandibular (under the jawline) areas, thigh, abdomen, and flank, along with bra fat, back fat, underneath the buttocks (also known as banana roll), and upper arm." However, the model claimed in a $50 million lawsuit that the treatment instead left her with hardened bulges of fat on her body, which her doctor eventually diagnosed as paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, or PAH, which cannot be fixed by exercise or dieting. Per another doctor who spoke with People, PAH only occurs in less than one percent of CoolSculpting patients. 

Evangelista wanted to share her experience with others. "I loved being up on the catwalk. Now I dread running into someone I know. I can't live like this anymore, in hiding and shame. I just couldn't live in this pain any longer. I'm willing to finally speak," she told People, adding, "I don't recognize myself physically, but I don't recognize me as a person any longer either."

Iggy Azalea's back surgery went awry

In November 2022, rapper Iggy Azalea shared in a Twitter thread that what she thought was a routine surgery ended up causing her tremendous amounts of pain and recovery. Azalea underwent surgery to fix a back injury that she'd been living and touring with for a couple years.

"It didn't end up being very mundane because I had complications with my recovery & ended up in bed hooked up to a million machines and in so much pain there are about 3 days I actually just can't remember at all," the musician said. Azalea continued by noting how weak she became post-surgery. The rapper also noted, "It's been very mentally challenging to suddenly not be able to do anything for yourself and have no answers about when you will recover. That was the hardest part but all the Drs have been so happy with how quickly I'm getting better now that I'm back moving & walking." At the time, Azalea said she hoped to be healthy again by Christmas.

Azalea's surgery was scheduled so she'd be able to fly to her native Australia to film an unnamed movie. Due to these complications, however, she unfortunately had to back out of the film. Remaining grateful for her recovery, though, the rapper-actor added to her fans, "I think I'm gonna seriously get into my fitness after this. I value my body in a whole new way after this experience."

Sharon Stone had to advocate for the correct diagnosis

Sometimes you have to be your own advocate when it comes to your health. Sharon Stone, who's unfortunately dealt with lots of health issues over the years, learned that the hard way in 2022 when she was misdiagnosed and had to push for proper treatment. Per Hello!, Stone shared on her since-deleted Twitter account that November, "Just had another misdiagnosis and incorrect procedure. This time double epidural. W[ith] worsening pain went for a SECOND OPINION: I have a large fibroid tumor that must come out." Noting that she was recovering, the actor continued with a warning to others, writing, "Ladies in particular: Don't get blown off ... GET A SECOND OPINION ... It can save your life."

Stone, as noted, is no stranger to medical complications. The star nearly died over 20 years ago from a days-long stroke. In 2019, Stone noted to Variety how deeply the stroke changed her life. "People treated me in a way that was brutally unkind. From other women in my own business to the female judge who handled my custody case, I don't think anyone grasps how dangerous a stroke is for women and what it takes to recover — it took me about seven years," she said. 

Stone is still working as an actor, of course — and in 2021, she published a memoir called "The Beauty of Living Twice," which details much of her journey post-stroke.

Courtney Love's anemia was dismissed by several doctors

Few people have lived a life as unique as Courtney Love. The musician rose to fame as the lead singer of the band Hole, but she is perhaps best known for her marriage to late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. Love has also been upfront about her time dealing with drug addiction, and in 2020, the singer shared that she'd been sober for over a year. The following year, Love also publicly announced in a since-deleted Instagram post that she nearly lost her life due to anemia.

"People, I've been sad, and extremely sick," Love began (as captured by People). "Debilitated, in indescribable pain and in August at 97 pounds almost died in hospital from anemia (hemoglobin I had none)." The "Celebrity Skin" singer went on to claim that much of her treatment (or lack thereof) by doctors was in response to her former struggles with addiction. "I was stigmatized for being an addict for 9 months by many ill-equipped drs, backwards drs and quacks," she added. "While in debilitating acute pain."

Love was thankfully on the mend at this point after finding a doctor who took her condition and pain management seriously. However, she's unfortunately not the only patient to have been dismissed or discriminated against while seeking treatment due to the ongoing stigma surrounding addiction even in medical settings, as Dr. Jessica Gregg detailed in a piece written for the New York Daily News.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Crystal Hefner almost lost her life during surgery

Crystal Hefner is here to warn others about the potential dangers of plastic surgery. The former Playboy model and widow to Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner has had her fair share of scares both during and after going under for cosmetic procedures. Per InTouch, on her private Instagram account, Crystal detailed her shift in her approach to beauty in January 2022, noting that she'd removed fillers and implants in the name of authenticity. "I am more authentic, vulnerable and feel that I belong more to myself. I am mine," she explained. 

But authenticity isn't the only reason Crystal no longer subscribes to plastic surgery. The model turned real estate agent previously claimed in 2021 to have fallen ill from her breast implants, stating that she almost died during a fat transfer procedure. "I lost half the blood in my body and ended up in the hospital needing a blood transfusion. I've been slowly eating my way back to health since then, and I am now finally feeling OK," she shared in another Instagram post (via InTouch). 

After these harrowing experiences, Crystal Hefner chose to stop opting for cosmetic enhancements and instead embrace a more natural look.

Could John Ritter's death have been prevented?

Fans fell in love with John Ritter on the hit 1970s sitcom "Three's Company," which also starred Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers. Though the two women who starred in the show are still alive, Ritter sadly died in 2003 due to an aortic dissection. He was 54. According to WebMD, "An aortic dissection refers to an abnormal separation of tissues within the walls of the aorta, the large blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Aortic dissection results in a weakened blood vessel wall that may also rupture." 

An aortic dissection, clearly, can be fatal — but if properly treated, it is survivable. In Ritter's case, the star had been treated for what doctors at first believed to be a heart attack. However, per the Los Angeles Times, it was during the subsequent cardiac catheterization that the aortic dissection was discovered. Ritter's family was initially told there was nothing that could have been done to prevent the actor's death. However, his family eventually argued against that line of thinking and filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Ritter's cardiologist and radiologist, seeking $67 million in damages.

"The doctors told it to me like I was 5 and I told it to her like she was 5," Amy Yasbeck, Ritter's widow, said of the conversation she had with their daughter following the actor's death, claiming, "The truth is, it's a lot more complicated and it's a lot more sad." People reports that, in 2008, the jury ultimately sided with Ritter's doctors.

Ed McMahon claimed he wasn't properly diagnosed

Ed McMahon, who was known for his iconic speaking voice as Johnny Carson's right-hand man on "The Tonight Show," suffered a broken neck in 2008, and he filed many a lawsuit against those he felt were responsible for the accident. Per Today, McMahon sued the hospital where he was treated, as well as the doctors responsible for treatment, claiming he was not accurately diagnosed with a broken neck, and therefore not treated for it. McMahon also sued Robert Day, as his fall happened at Day's house. The lawsuits McMahon brought forth against the hospital and doctors were settled out of court, and the suit against Day was ultimately dismissed.

Shortly after McMahon's legal proceedings ended the following year, the star unfortunately experienced more health issues. At age 86, McMahon died of bone cancer complications and pneumonia in June 2009, as reported by The New York Times

McMahon's life, however, was certainly not defined by the medical mishap that caused him to suffer near the end of his life, but rather by the joy he brought fans throughout his career. The Times' obituary also reported on McMahon once saying of his famous late-night gig, "I laugh for an hour and then go home. I've got the world's greatest job."

Travis Barker sued a hospital over an alleged error

Medical malpractice is, unfortunately, quite common. Per Maloney Law Group, the John Hopkins University School of Medicine conducted a study on the phenomenon and found that medical malpractice led to the deaths of between 250,000 and 440,000 Americans annually.

For his part, Travis Barker has claimed to have fallen victim to a medical error, and even filed a lawsuit in his own defense in 2018. According to court docs obtained by TMZ, the drummer sued the hospital that treated him for blood clots, alleging that a doctor had used a dirty needle while sedating him prior to an MRI, which resulted in a staph infection. Barker was then unable to play with his band, Blink-182, for several shows, leading to the cancellation some shows entirely that fall and delaying the start of Blink's residency in Las Vegas.

Though Barker hasn't updated fans on the status of his lawsuit since, in the summer of 2022, he did have another serious health scare following a routine endoscopy, which resulted in severe abdominal pain and a hospitalization. Per NBC 4, Barker later shared on his Instagram story, "During the endoscopy, I had a very small polyp removed right in a very sensitive area, usually handled by specialists, which unfortunately damaged a critical pancreatic drainage tube. This resulted in severe life threatening pancreatitis." Thankfully, Barker's condition improved, and he was able to return home a few days later.

Surgery permanently damaged Julie Andrews' singing voice

Some medical mishaps completely change the trajectory of some victims' careers, as was the case for Oscar-winning actor and singer Julie Andrews. As reported by Classic FM, the "Mary Poppins" star shared with AARP The Magazine in 2019 that she underwent surgery in 1997 to remove what was initially believed to be nodules that had settled on her vocal cords during a stage production of "Victor/Victoria."

The surgery was unsuccessful, and Andrews' legendary pure vocals were permanently damaged. "When I woke up from an operation to remove a cyst on my vocal cord, my singing voice was gone," she said. "I went into a depression. It felt like I'd lost my identity." However, as Andrews later explained to Oprah Winfrey, the original issue turned out to be "a certain kind of muscular striation [that] happens on the vocal cords. I didn't have cancer, I didn't have nodules, I didn't have anything." Andrews filed a malpractice lawsuit a couple of years after the operation, though the terms of the 2000 settlement were not disclosed.

"But do I miss singing. Yes. I really do," Andrews told AARP. However, "The Princess Diaries" star — in addition to acting — has since moved onto a new venture. "But by good fortune, that's when my daughter Emma and I had been asked to write books for kids. So along came a brand-new career in my mid-60s. Boy, was that a lovely surprise."

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Michael Jackson's doctor went to prison

Some celebrity deaths shake the world to its core — deaths like Michael Jackson's. Citizens across the globe grieved the loss of the King of Pop at length, and his controversial legacy lives on in pop culture, with his cause of death seeming just as unbelievable as much of what happened while he was living.

At age 50, Jackson died from a heart attack in 2009, per History. The singer had a cocktail of drugs in his system at the time, including propofol, which not only caused his demise, but also put the doctor who prescribed the medicine behind bars. Two years later, Dr. Conrad Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, as reported by AP News (via Pitchfork). "Dr. Murray created a set of circumstances and became involved in a cycle of horrible medicine," the presiding judge said at the trial. "The practice of propofol for medicine madness, which violated his sworn obligation, for money, fame prestige and whatever else may have occurred."

Murray was sentenced to four years in prison, but was released after two years, according to CNN. Over 10 years after his headline-making trial, Murray opened up about the experience for a 2022 documentary about Jackson's death titled "TMZ Investigates: Who Really Killed Michael Jackson." In the trailer, Murray claimed, "Michael Jackson was a drug addict. He was a master at manipulation, because I was manipulated by Michael." He went on to allege, "I did not enable him at any time in his addiction. I would never do that."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Joan Rivers was treated by negligent doctors

Joan Rivers was known for two things: her biting comedic sense and her love of plastic surgery. "I wish I had a twin so I could know what I'd look like without plastic surgery," she once said (via The Hollywood Reporter), having also been quoted saying, "I've had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware." Though it wasn't due to plastic surgery, it was a turn under the knife that ultimately ended the star's life. The comedian died at age 81 from complications during an elective vocal cord procedure in 2014 at an outpatient surgery clinic, per The New York Times, which led to cardiac arrest.

The star's daughter, Melissa Rivers, later filed a malpractice suit against Yorkville Endoscopy, the medical center where Joan underwent her procedure. It was eventually settled out of court in 2016. Per The New York Times, a representative for the center said of the settlement, "The parties agreed to settle this case to avoid protracted litigation. We remain committed to providing quality, compassionate health care services."

The details of the settlement remained private, but Melissa did release a statement regarding the situation, noting that she was finally "able to put the legal aspects of my mother's death behind me and ensure that those culpable for her death have accepted responsibility for their actions quickly and without equivocation."