Having starred in some of the most successful films in Hollywood such as The Shawshank Redemption, Million Dollar Baby and The Dark Knight Trilogy, concerns were immediately raised when it emerged that the aging star was involved in a serious crash leaving both him and his passenger with serious injuries. The crash occurred when the star was driving near his Mississippi home. Although remaining conscious and talking to emergency rescue workers, the actor’s condition was described as “serious” as he had to be cut out from the car and airlifted to hospital.
According to the editor of the Charleston Sun Sentinel newspaper, who arrived at the scene shortly after the crash had taken place, Freeman had to be extracted from his Nissan Maxima after workers used hydraulic cutters, also known as “the jaws of life” to cut him free.
It was concluded that the star, who was driving the car, had overcorrected causing it to flip over several times before coming to a rest.
Suffering from a broken arm, broken elbow and shoulder damage in the crash, the star went on to spend four-and-a-half hours in surgery to repair nerves and damage to his left arm and hand.
Shortly after his spokeswoman Donna Lee released a statement to say that the actor was “doing well” after such an ordeal, but in an interview with Esquire magazine four years after the crash, Freeman revealed the long-term damage the crash has left on him .
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Interviewer Tom Chiarella was quick to notice how the star’s injury was causing “limitations” on his life. He went on to observe that Freeman has “lost a little control of his own autonomy”.
The journalist observed: “It hurts when he walks, when he sits still, when he rises from his couch, and when he missteps in a damp meadow. More than hurts. It seems a kind of agony, though he never mentions it.
“Despite surgery to repair nerve damage, he was stuck with a useless left hand.
“It is stiffly gripped by a compression glove most of the time to ensure that blood doesn’t pool there. It is a clamp, his pain, an icy shot up a relatively useless limb.
“He doesn’t like to show it, but there are times when he cannot help but lose himself to a world-ending grimace.”
When asked about his pain, Freeman explains that he suffers with a condition known as fibromyalgia – a condition that causes widespread pain and extreme tiredness.
“Up and down the arm. That’s where it gets so bad. Excruciating,” Freeman explained to Chiarella.
In 2017, the star was spotted at an event in London, where he was once again wearing a compression glove, a sign that his injuries still cause him problems, despite doctors assuring him that his condition would improve way back in 2011.
“I suffered nerve damage and it hasn’t gotten better. I can’t move it,” he said at the time.
“If you don’t move your hand, it will swell up. Do you know you move your hand about a million times a day?”
The NHS explains that the exact causes of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it is thought to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain, and changes in the way the central nervous system processes pain messages carried around the body.
In many cases, like Freeman, the condition appears to be triggered by a physically or emotionally stressful event.
Common symptoms of fibromyalgia include so much more than intense pain. Typical symptoms include:
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- Muscle stiffness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Problems with mental processes (known as “fibro-fog”), such as problems with memory and concentration
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
As the brain develops a “memory of pain”, both painful and non-painful stimuli will cause the same undesired effect.
Currently there is no cure for the condition, and adapting your lifestyle seems to be one way to cope. For Freeman, this meant giving up some of his beloved hobbies and “acting” to disguise painful symptoms.
Other treatment options to act as coping mechanisms include the following:
- Medicine, such as antidepressants and painkillers
- Talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and counselling
- Lifestyle changes, such as exercise programs and relaxation techniques.