JOE Swash also spent two weeks fighting meningitis and encephalitis in intensive care-a brain swelling.
The 38-year-old star, who was in EastEnders at the time, was forced in 2005 to take a three-month break from the soap as he struggled back to fitness.
In reality, the actor-now a regular on Celebrity Gogglebox along with girlfriend Stacey Solomon-spent six weeks in hospital with the very rare meningoencephalitis virus. It proved to be a long way to recovery for young Joe, then in his early twenties, undergoing gruelling physical sessions to help him learn to talk and move back.
But when he finally returned to Albert Square, Joe insisted the disease had dealt a severe blow to his place in the soap, saying that the time he had spent away had a “massive effect” on his role as Mickey Miller. He told The Sun: “I could not find my feet when I came back. New owners were coming in and getting in new actors and I missed the pecking order.
“Mickey just became a light relief – the joker. That’s fine, but I have more ambition. If I had good stuff I would have stayed for ages-but I didn’t get the job.” It was revealed in early 2008 that after five years on the show, EastEnders’ executive producer Diederick Santer was axing the characters of Mickey and his stepfather Keith.
Joe later said: “You just don’t believe it will ever stop when you are young. For years and years, I thought I’d be on EastEnders.’ Shortly after leaving the Square, the star went into the jungle I’m A Celebrity, finding the show a natural fit for his cheeky personality and gung-ho attitude, driving his way to the winner’s path.
It was a sparky personality and willingness to try anything that made him a favourite of reality TV, most recently winning Dancing On Ice-despite two other dashes from the hospital. Despite his success in the jungle, however, Joe was declared bankrupt in 2009-a horrendous experience that he was due to repeat in 2013.
Having talked to the Mirror, Joe explained: “I dropped behind on taxes and bills and stuck my head in the sand, which was the hardest thing to do. “The second time it happened on tv, I felt humiliated and wondering how I could get myself into the situation, however it does happen to anyone.”
In his lifetime role, he acknowledged his younger days as an actor has tipped him into taking a devil-may-care attitude towards money. Joe said: “I screwed it away on stuff that I didn’t need. I went out every night and had a mortgaged house.”
Joe’s fortunes, however, saw a huge upturn in 2016 after he started dating Stacey Solomon, the former X Factor contestant he had encountered in the jungle after she hosted the competition and was hosting the Extra Camp spin-off. The pair, both of whom are A Celebrity winners, have ever since made a formidable couple and are well on their way to being fan favourites among the viewers of Celebrity Gogglebox.