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While many of us have found the coronavirus crisis and recent lockdown tough, actress Beverley Callard has had a particularly challenging time of it after a hip operation in March went so wrong it left her unable to walk.
The 63-year-old endured weeks of agony after the initial surgery left her without any soft tissue in her right hip and her bones painfully rubbing together.
She waited three months for corrective surgery, only to be told by her hospital that they couldn’t operate again. Forced to turn to a doctor friend for help, she found a new medical team and went under the knife again in July.
Now she faces a long recovery and is uncertain when or if she’ll ever be able to walk properly again.
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Opening up the Manchester home she shares with her husband of 10 years Jon McEwan, Bev reveals to OK! that she kept her horrific ordeal secret from her Coronation Street castmates. The star even tried to shield her children – Rebecca, 45, and Joshua, 31 – and stepchildren – Ben, 34, Jon, 31, and Danielle, 29 – from the true extent of the damage.
“My children were quite upset to see me,” she says. “Even though we’d FaceTimed, they were quite shocked when they saw me in person.”
Renowned for her strength of spirit, Beverley – who plays Liz McDonald in Corrie – is now undergoing daily physiotherapy and will soon start hydrotherapy. She admits losing her independence has been one of the hardest things to adjust to as she now relies on husband Jon for daily assistance.
“Sometimes, when he’s had to wash my hair and look after me, I’d think to myself, ‘Oh, my God, this is terrible for him,’” she confesses.
But the pair have managed to laugh through the low points, with Beverley telling us, “Hip surgery is a brilliant form of contraception!”
Here, Beverley and Jon open up to OK! about leaning on each other and facing an uncertain future…
How are you feeling?
Beverley: I’m taking things day by day. I had a physiotherapy session at the hospital the day before this photo shoot. I’ve got physio every day and I soon start hydrotherapy. I’m trying to get mobile as fast as I can. But I have to do as I’m told. All my stitches are out now so it’s about building up the muscles. It’s my right hip and I’ve not been able to walk since March.
What are you physically able to do now?
Beverley: I can stand up – and I stand with most of my weight on my left leg. If I stand up and pose for photos, I look normal. But I can’t walk without crutches. I have Jon on one side and a crutch on the other side. I’m learning and I’m battling.
Jon: A slow recovery is a better recovery.
Beverley: I have to do as I’m told, but I’m not very patient. The physiotherapist has told me I’m doing remarkably well.
You’ve said you want to walk by Christmas. Are you confident that will happen?
Beverley: No, I can’t say that, to be honest. Because everything depends on my doctors. They’ve told me this will be a long recovery. I can’t make any plans. Each day is about making the tiniest amount of progress.
Do you feel like a different person?
Beverley: I really do. I don’t feel like me. I’m a really physical person. I don’t have any sit down hobbies! My whole life has just stopped. I don’t know when I’ll be fully recovered. The hardest thing is I have no independence. I can’t drive or get myself anywhere. I can’t even stand and cook so Jon has to make me every meal. Jon has been my rock.
Jon: Luckily, I can cook, too…
Beverley: And he’s bloody sick of it! I’ll pay the price when I’m better.
How much have you relied on Jon during this time?
Beverley: He’s been amazing. When we first went into lockdown, I was so bad and lying flat because that was all I could manage with the pain. Sometimes, when he’s had to wash my hair and look after me, I would think to myself, “Oh, my God, this is terrible for him.” In those moments you just have to find strength. But the best thing is he’s made me laugh and sometimes that’s all that has got us through.
What has been your lowest point during this whole ordeal?
Beverley: It was not knowing if I could walk properly again. Hopefully, I will. But there’s no 100 per cent guarantee. I have to stay positive, and I do feel I’m making progress. I’m hoping I will walk again and return to who I was before. I’m still scared that might not happen, of course I am. But you have to keep positive.
Jon, how have you stayed positive?
I had to stay strong and I don’t know how I got through it. We did it day by day. What choice do we have but to battle through?
Has it made you feel more aware of the fragility of life and our health?
Beverley: It’s something you don’t give a second thought to, do you? You hear horror stories and watch documentaries about people who have an operation go wrong. But you never think it will happen to you.
This situation can have an impact on relationships. How have you tried to keep the romance alive?
Beverley: Well, hip surgery is a brilliant form of contraception! That’s all I can say about that side of things. Date nights have been out of the question, believe me.
Jon: I think I’m just going to have to say, “No comment.” [Laughs]
How bad has the pain been on a daily basis?
Beverley: The pain is still pretty bad. Doctors think I have nerve damage, too. Also – this is not my opinion, but I have been told – I have a high pain threshold. My dentist tells me I’m one of the toughest patients! I’m trying to get through it. I realise now what life must be like for someone with chronic pain. It’s awful and they must be some of the strongest people.
How do you manage the pain?
Beverley: I’ve tried everything. There were so many painkillers that made me physically sick. And being sick jarred my hip every time. I thought to myself, “Oh, God, is this ever going to get easier?” Luckily, I’ve found something that works – I do try meditation and deep breathing. But sometimes I just need to swear! And believe me, I do!
How supportive have your Corrie co-stars been?
Beverley: Oh, they’ve been fantastic. I am quite a private person and I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t want anyone to think I was feeling sorry for myself. But then Corrie went back to filming and I couldn’t go. Simon Gregson, who plays my on-screen son, and Kate Ford, who plays my on-screen daughter-in-law, have both been fantastic. They’re the two people I’m closest to. Simon makes me laugh on the phone. Even though I wasn’t allowed visitors in the hospital, Charlie Lawson [Jim McDonald] told me, “I would have broken the f****** walls down if I’d known.” Ha! So everybody has been great.
You’ve been open in the past about your battles with depression. How has this ordeal affected your mental health?
Beverley: I’ve been well for quite a few years and I’ve stayed strong mentally throughout all of this. I’ve not faulted at all in that way. I know the signs to look out for and I take care of myself more than I used to. And because I was with Jon 24/7, he made me laugh and distracted me.
Jon: That was one of the positives. If Beverley had been on her own, it could have left time for her to think about it and let more negative thoughts slip in. But because we’re together so much, it didn’t get to that point.
Beverley: I don’t know how people have coped through Covid-19 on their own. I feel lucky for what I have. Jon, the dogs and a nice garden to get outside in. Mentally, I’m really strong and, touch wood, I’ll stay that way.
When do you hope to return to Corrie and what would be your ideal send-off for Liz?
Beverley: I can’t go back until next year, realistically. But I would love it if Liz and Jim got back together and disappeared off into the sunset. But I don’t think the writers will agree with me!
Have you managed to reunite with your children since this whole ordeal?
Beverley: We finally got to see them in the last couple of weeks. I had my second operation on 20 July, but I had to remain in isolation. It was amazing to see their faces. Our kids are in different parts of the country so they didn’t all come at once. Our youngest grandson, Noah, is two and I couldn’t run around after him like I would normally. But I still made him laugh.
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Was it an emotional reunion?
Beverley: Yeah. My children were quite upset to see me. Because even though we’d FaceTimed, they were quite shocked when they saw me in person. The girls, particularly, got tearful. But they’re strong, like me!
Jon: I think they felt upset to see how fragile Beverley looked. It’s been such a hard time and you can mask quite a lot on the phone but when they saw their mum, it was hard. But we’re trying to stay upbeat as a family.
This is the first time you’ve invited us into your home. How long have you been here?
Beverley: How long now? Four years? When we first saw it we liked it because it had lots of space. There are only the two of us and the three dogs, but we’ve got five children and their partners and the grandchildren. So it’s got space for them to come and stay but it’s easy to look after. One of my biggest hobbies is painting and decorating and knocking walls down. We’ve nearly finished the house but it’s hard in my current situation. Hopefully when I’m mobile again we can carry on.
How would you describe your home’s interior style?
Jon: Oh, that’s a tricky one…
Beverley: It is, isn’t it? We don’t really run to a theme. We’ve got polished concrete in some rooms.
Jon: With a little glitter – that you put in.
Beverley: It sounds worse than it is, I promise! I like bits of retro, too. What usually happens is that I tell Jon I’ve come up with a marvellous idea and he tells me “no”.
Jon: To be fair, I am a builder!
2020 has been a year of reflection. What has been the biggest lesson you’ve both learned?
Beverley: The lockdown and my operation gave me time to reassess. It gives you time for contemplation. We’re all in the rat race and I wish we weren’t. The way everything slowed down was good for so many people.
Jon: We both work at 100 miles an hour. But this has made us think about the direction we’ve been going in. It’s been a nice pause.
Beverley: I still want to get my life back to normal, but I think it would be nice to live life at a slower pace. And that’s saying something coming from me!
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