Joe Swash on EastEnders exit after illness left him battling for his life

Joe Swash has opened up about how his health battles with meningitis ended his career on EastEnders.

The 38-year-old became a household name thanks to his stint on the BBC soap, where he played Mickey Miller for five years, from 2003.

However, Stacey Solomon’s boyfriend was forced to take a three-month break from Albert Square in 2005, after doctors diagnosed him with meningitis and encephalitis – a swelling of the brain.

He was in hospital for around six weeks, including two weeks in intensive care.

When he was eventually discharged, the star underwent months of intense physiotherapy to learn how to move and talk again.

Joe made a return to the soap but was dealt a severe blow, claiming his absence had a ‘massive effect’ on his character.

Speaking to the Sun about his return, the dad-of-two said: ‘When I came back I couldn’t find my feet. New producers came in and brought in new actors and I got lost down the pecking order.

‘Mickey just became light relief – the joker. That’s all right but I’ve got more ambition. I would have stayed for ages if I had good stuff – but I wasn’t getting the work.’

The actor was axed in 2008 alongside his on-screen step-dad, Keith Miller (David Spinx), after five years in Walford.

Lifting the lid on his time on the show, he admitted that he didn’t think Mickey’s role would ever end.

‘When you are young you just don’t think it is ever going to end,’ he added. ‘I thought I was going to be on EastEnders for years and years.’

While Joe may have left the square in 2008, his career didn’t suffer after his exit.

In fact, he headed straight for the I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here jungle, and ended up winning the show – beating George Takei, Simon Webbe and Martina Navratilova to the crown.

Following the win, he landed a presenting job on the ITV2 spin-off show, until he left the series in 2019.

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