'I thought I was going to die' - TV's Chris Tarrant on having stroke at 39,000ft
PUBLISHED: 19:18 16 October 2019 | UPDATED: 11:47 17 October 2019
Who wants to be a Millionaire star Chris Tarrant has spoken to audiences in Suffolk today about one of the scariest moments of his life to help raise awareness around stroke.
The TV star was a speaker at Headway Suffolk's annual conference at Wherstead Park today, where he revealed he had recently been in Suffolk to see Sir Rod Stewart live in concert at Portman Road.
Mr Tarrant suffered a stroke in 2014 while filming a series of Extreme Railway Journeys.
"I had been filming in Burma for a few weeks and was getting on the plane back when I slipped and fell over. I honestly thought it was a bit of cramp," he said.
Once on the plane, Mr Tarrant started to notice more symptoms.
"My arm went stiff, I still thought it was cramp and I heard myself slur. Slowly the penny dropped - I think I am having a stroke. That was really scary at 39,000ft in the middle of nowhere.
"I just wanted to get to London."
When he did arrive back, Mr Tarrant ended up collapsing at Heathrow Airport. He was quickly taken to Charing Cross Hospital.
"Slowly it dawned overnight that I was in a pretty scary place," he added.
"I was frightened and there was one point on the plane when I just thought, 'I think I am going to die'.
"I have never thought that in my life. I'm going to die in a plane up here and nobody knows, my family don't know."
Mr Tarrant managed to get out of hospital three weeks later, started physiotherapy and was back working several months after the stroke.
"I am one of the lucky ones," he said. "I am a survivor."
The broadcasting legend was speaking out about his experiences to support Headway, a charity which helps people who have acquired brain injuries. It recently received permission to build a large new respite centre in the Ravenswood area of Ipswich, named after Professor Stephen Hawking.
His former wife, Dr Jane Hawking, was also a speaker at today's conference.
Having shared his own experiences, Mr Tarrant said he hoped to raise awareness of the condition: "A stroke is incredibly common, it's quite extraordinary.
"It's a bigger killer for men than testicular and prostate cancer combined and it's a bigger killer in women than breast cancer.
"If by talking about my stroke, it can make people aware and save a few people's lives, then it is the least I can do."