Strength to match Hercules

He played Hercules for 111 episodes between 1995 and 1999, but Hollywood actor Kevin Sorbo was confronted with his mortality after suffering from a severe shoulder aneurysm.

Kevin Sorbo in 1999 in his most famous role, as Hercules.
(Photo: Getty Images)

Kevin got his breakthrough role in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys in 1994 and has conquered the screen countless times since.

"I'm an actor," he says. "I'm not saving people's lives. I just hope I give them some escape from reality for a while and give them a good laugh and a good cry."

He recalls his role as Hercules with particular fondness.

"I relished and looked forward to it," he says. "I had an amazing stunt team that made me look like I knew what I was doing."

Kevin thrived on movement and exercise, and tried every day to match the strength and invincibility of his character.

Which is why the pain that awoke in his shoulder in the last few years of the series was a cause of great frustration.

As he sat at the chiropractor, his latest attempt at trying to reduce his agony, Kevin heard a voice say, "Don't let him crack your neck".

The chiropractor cracked his neck.

"I felt two very loud pops in the back of my head," Kevin tells the Christian Broadcasting Network.

In his book, True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal and How Nearly Dying Saved My Life, he describes it as if an 8.9 earthquake had struck his head.

"Oh, it was unbelievable," he says. "The buzzing, the vibration, the humming that was going on. I just looked up at the sky and said, 'I'm going to die today'."

Over the course of a couple of days Kevin's condition grew worse. His eye sight began to fail, his balance was gone and his speech was slurred. When he went to the hospital doctors admitted him into ICU where they ran tests and found an aneurysm in his left arm.

Kevin remembers, "My left side clavicle had opened up and now thousands of clots were in my arm and they thought they might have to amputate."

In addition, Kevin had suffered three strokes. The invincible "Hercules" was now incapacitated. He had a talk with God.

"I was scared. I was scared for my future, my career, my life. Am I going to be able to have kids?" At the time, Kevin was engaged to his wife Sam Jenkins, who had guest-starred on Hercules.

"We were four months away from saying 'for better or worse' and [Sam] got worse before she got to say those lines."

What followed, over years of rehabilitation, was pain, weakness, and migraines, and confusion as to why and how this could have happened to him. He believed God had warned him about the chiropractor, but then why still allow it to happen?

Kevin grew up in Minnesota to Christian parents. When he was 13, he went to one of evangelist Billy Graham's campaigns and gave his life to Jesus Christ.

Kevin Sorbo
Kevin in a photo taken January 20, 2017:
(Photo Michael Bezjian/WireImage/Getty)

"It was a very happy emotional night for me," he remembers. "I felt like that was the day [I decided for myself to live for God], because it's such a marked day in my life."

But then he had been at the peak of his career, about the marry the woman he loved, a bright future staring him in the face, and with his injury came doubt as to whether God really was taking care of him.

"Lying on the couch [during my recovery] with nothing but spare time, I conversed with God and told him my problems," Kevin goes on.

"I asked His forgiveness [...] and I began using my grateful prayer again.

"I thanked [God] for the warning that September day. Although I didn't listen I wondered if He could have done it simply to let me know He was there. Perhaps that was blessing enough. I thanked Him for the gratifying workouts and the good sleeps at night. I thanked Him for saving my arm, my speech, and what I had left of my sight."

Kevin prayed; not for healing per se, but that God would help him accept his situation. "If this is the best I'm going to be," he told the Lord, "then help me fight through this every day. Because it is tough."

"Although I would never measure to Hercules' strength, I [rivalled] his stamina for my everyday battle just to have a normal life," Kevin says.

"And my true strength comes from God."

After its sixth season, the Hercules series ended. Although Kevin still has a 10% loss of vision in both eyes he continues to act in movies and hit television series, including the fantasy film Kull the Conquerer, the TV series Andromeda, and the Christian movies Soul Surfer and God's not Dead.

Kevin and Sam have been married for nearly 20 years and have three children together.

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