The Serious Illness That Almost Cost Barry Keoghan His Life

Barry Keoghan isn't just an Oscar-nominated actor; he's also a survivor who has triumphed over a serious illness that nearly claimed his life. That might be surprising, given that "The Batman" star physically appears in perfect health with his sculpted figure, something he can partially attribute to being an amateur boxer, a passion he picked up in high school. When he turned to boxing, Keoghan discovered it helped him in more ways than one. "Training is brilliant — it's not only good to look good, but to feel good mentally," he said in a 2021 interview with Off the Ball. "You know, it's brilliant for the mental health."

Keoghan learned from an early age that staying fit — both physically and mentally — was key to achieving his goals. But none of his efforts could prevent him from catching a potentially fatal infection. Fortunately, Keoghan came out the other side in one piece — or nearly. Hidden in plain sight on Keoghan's perfectly chiseled torso is a pretty big scar that stretches several inches above his right elbow and zigzags down onto his forearm. It could've been a lot worse.

Barry Keoghan caught flesh-eating disease in 2021

Barry Keoghan was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis — commonly known as flesh-eating disease – just as he was set to start filming "The Banshees of Inisherin" in August 2021."But I'm not gonna die, right?" the Irish actor asked the doctors, as he recalled in a January GQ cover story. The answer wasn't what he wanted to hear. "Well, we don't know," they said. The infection, which can be brought on by different types of bacteria, kills one in five patients, according to the CDC.

Beyond death, the flesh-eating disease often results in the amputation of a limb, which was a possibility in Keoghan's case. Luckily, the "Eternals" star didn't lose the arm that served as the door for the bacteria to enter his bloodstream. Director Martin McDonagh visited Keoghan in the hospital before shooting was set to begin, and he didn't like what he saw. But Keoghan didn't make a big deal about it. "I'm not sure if he was on a lot of meds, but he seemed to shrug it off. ... He was like, 'Yeah, no, I'm going to be fine," McDonagh said.

Keoghan made a full recovery, but only after a 10-day hospital stay. "I was in a lot of pain," he told GQ in a 2022 story. And the pain lingered well past his discharge day. When he arrived on set to start filming, he still needed help getting in and out of clothes. "I may have been in a daze," he said.

Barry Keoghan also suffers from a neurodevelopmental disorder

Barry Keoghan lived most of his life unaware he had a neurodevelopmental disorder, although he always suspected it. "I knew I had it growing up, and it came from. ... you know, sitting still, being easily distracted or not being able to focus on something for 'x' amount of time," he said on the "Mamia and Me" podcast. However, it wasn't until 2020, when he was in his late 20s, that Keoghan received a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.

Receiving a diagnosis changed everything because he was finally put on medication for it. "The difference is day and night. My mind used to be like a traffic jam, crazy, and then with the medication it's like: One car goes, then another car goes," he told Esquire in October. Keoghan believes his condition played a role in his love for acting. Having ADHD meant Keoghan lacked the attention span to read many books. "I get freaked out if a book has 300 pages," he told the Independent in 2020.

Instead, Keoghan turned to films, which captured his attention for just the right amount of time. Throughout his childhood, he felt his preference for movies over books was a negative trait, but he's changed his mind about that. He now believes it's important to value that children are all different and have different talents. "We should definitely nurture that — whatever the kid is into — sport, drama, or even something like technical graphics," he said on the podcast.