Emmerdale has revealed that fan favourite Marlon Dingle is to suffer a stroke.
The shocking setback happens next week, mere moments after the chef has got engaged to partner Rhona.
The soap has worked closely with the Stroke Association on the upcoming plot, which will see Marlon embark on a gruelling journey in which he has to learn how to walk and talk again.
Explaining how the turn of events comes about, actor Mark Charnock, who plays Marlon, says: “He’s on an absolute high. It’s been a stressful few months, but it’s his birthday and he’s going to propose to Rhona.
“They end up accidentally proposing to each other at the same time. Everything has come together for him and he’s thrilled to bits, and then he realises he hasn’t got the ring for her, so he runs back to Rhona’s house to get it.
“He’s scurrying around, trying to find it, and suddenly, out of nowhere, he is hit by this truck.
“Over a period of moments, his world changes, utterly. Everything seems to slow down. He’s very aware that something is very wrong.
“Then he catches sight of himself in the mirror, and his face has completely drooped on its right side. He collapses and is frozen, really. As you can imagine, he’s seized with terror.”
Marlon is eventually found by daughter April and rushed to hospital, where he undergoes a thrombectomy - a procedure to remove a blood clot from his brain.
“It helps with the facial drooping, but he’s still got a long journey in terms of learning how to move and how to speak,” adds Mark.
“He’s left with physical damage all down his right side - his arm, his leg, and his mouth are all quite badly affected.
“He has aphasia (difficulty with language and speech). He either goes to the wrong word or he just can’t say it. And he’s in a wheelchair to begin with, because his right side isn’t operational.
“Marlon’s such a mouthy character and physically a very expressive person, so it reduces him down to his eyes, really. That’s how he expresses himself in the first few days and weeks.”
Someone suffers a stroke every five minutes in the UK, and one in four strokes happen to people of working age.
Over 50% are caused by high blood pressure. The other medical risk factor is Atrial Fibrillation - a medical condition that causes an irregular and often very fast heartbeat.
Lifestyle risk factors include smoking, being overweight, being physically inactive, and eating too much salt - all of which have the potential to clog the arteries, which could then lead to a blood clot or bleed.
Adds Mark, “Marlon is totally reliant on the people around him. His life is cooking. His dexterity is everything to him, and all of that is taken away. He feels like an absence in his own life.
“He’s not going to get where he wants to be for a long time. He can’t work any more, and he feels, wrongly, that he can’t be the dad he wants to be any more.
“But there’s some comedy in this, too, there’s some fun. There are some lovely scenes with Paddy in the hospital that will hopefully show that it’s not all gloom and depression.
“There’s a lightness to it, too, and also, there’s a great deal of hope - hope that things can only get better.”
Stroke strikes every five minutes in the UK. It can happen to anyone, of any age, at any time. It's vital to know the signs of a stroke in yourself or someone else. The FAST test helps you spot the most common signs:
Facial weakness: Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
Arm weakness: Can the person raise both arms?
Speech problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
Time to call 999: If you see any of these signs.
If you spot any signs of a stroke, don't wait. Call 999 straight away. Acting FAST will give the person the best chance of survival and recovery.
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When she is not writing about soaps, watching soaps, or interviewing people who are in soaps, she loves going to the theatre, taking a long walk or pottering about at home, obsessing over Farrow and Ball paint.