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Robert Lindsay health: Actor, 72, was 'really frightened' after being 'very ill'


Winning a BAFTA Award for his role in dark comedy G.B.H back in 1991, Lindsay has also had success when performing in multiple Shakespeare plays, before settling in for an 11-year run as Ben Harper in BBC sitcom My Family. Yet, in a candid interview with The Telegraph back in 2018, the star revealed that when training as an actor at RADA drama school, he had a “working class chip” on his shoulder. Initially reluctant to step away from his roots, it wasn’t until the star was 40 when he learned that his own parents had concealed a major part of his health history from him in a bid to avoid being labelled as a “poor person”.

“I was very ill with tuberculosis (TB) when I was 10,” Lindsay explained to The Telegraph.

“I only found out when I was 40. I had to go for a medical check-up for a movie and the GP found an old TB scar on my left lung.

“My parents had kept it from me; I was told I had pleurisy and pneumonia. I was in a sanatorium for eight weeks and never knew.

“You didn’t talk about TB; it was taboo – a poor person’s disease.”

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The NHS explains that TB is a bacterial infection spread through inhaling tiny droplets from the coughs and sneezes of an infected person.

The disease mainly affects the lungs, but it can affect any part of the body including the tummy (abdomen), glands, bones and nervous system.

Typical symptoms of TB include:

  • A persistent cough that lasts more than three weeks and usually brings up phlegm, which may be bloody
  • Weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • High temperature
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swellings in the neck.

As a potentially serious condition, it is important that individuals get treatment immediately.

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Falling ill on a cold February morning back in 1958, Lindsay recalled the brutal details of his illness.

In an interview with The Daily Mail, he said: “’It was always cold in Derbyshire – we didn’t have central heating in our house and in winter I would often wake to ice on the windows.

“This particular morning, I was standing in the corner of the playground in tears trying to catch my breath and wincing from chest pain.

“The headmistress came over and said I looked terribly white. When I said I didn’t feel well and my chest was hurting, she decided to send me home.

“I remember standing, trying to cross the road and when I leaned against a wall, I coughed and saw blood. I was really frightened.

“I can’t recall getting home or what my parents said, but I went to the doctor the next day and the next thing I knew I was being taken in an ambulance to the sanatorium.”

A sanatorium is a medical facility for long-term illnesses and back in the 19th and 20th century was specifically associated with the treatment for TB.

Before antibiotics were discovered, the number of individuals contracting TB, specially following the Second World War rose drastically, peaking in the early 20th century at 177,000.

The NHS continues to explain that in most healthy people, the body’s natural defence against infection and illness (the immune system) kills the bacteria and there are no symptoms.

Sometimes the immune system cannot kill the bacteria, but manages to prevent it from spreading in the body. TB that affects the lungs (pulmonary TB) is the most contagious type, but it usually only spreads after prolonged exposure to someone with the illness.

Nowadays, after a lengthy six-month course of antibiotics, the condition is usually cured, but individuals with pulmonary TB will remain infectious for two to three weeks into the course of their treatment.

Several different antibiotics are used because some forms of TB are resistant to certain antibiotics. If you’re infected with a drug-resistant form of TB, the NHS explains that treatment with a whopping six or more different medications may be needed.



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