Despite suffering a "mini stroke" just days before, the Broadway singer flawlessly performed the song that she says "almost killed" her at the awards show.
"The Greatest Showman" star Keala Settle has revealed she suffered a stroke one week before the "biggest performance" of her life at the 2018 Academy Awards.
Viewers watching the actress flawlessly sing the Oscar-nominated number "This Is Me," during the awards show last March, had no idea Settle had suffered a mini-stroke just one week prior during rehearsals.
"It was like someone cracked an egg on the top of my head and then drew a line on my body, turning one half off," Settle recalled to People. "My body started drooping immediately. I tried to put my hands up to my face, but I could only move my left arm. I couldn't talk because part of my tongue was immobile. I tried to stand, but there was nothing."
"I was panicked," she continued. "I let out this wail because I was so scared and the room went silent. All I could figure out how to say was 'Help.'"
The Tony Award nominee had a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or "mini-stroke," which can produce symptoms similar to a larger stroke. Settle soon learned that she had a rare cerebrovascular disorder known as Moyamoya disease. "Moyamoya disease" is Japanese for "puff of smoke," earning the name from the shape of tiny blood vessels the brain creates to compensate for the collated carotiod arteries that can block blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Settle noted that the disorder is prevalent in women, specifically Asian Pacific Islanders like herself.
"It could have happened at any time," she said. "It just so happened to happen a week before the biggest performance of my life."
Settle, who is best known for her work on Broadway, said she made the decision to delay surgery until after her Oscar performance.
"I'm used to working in the theater and the show must go on," she said.
Settle, who kept her news a secret from most people, said she was visited by her friend, actress Chrissy Metz and received daily FaceTimes with her "Greatest Showman" co-star Hugh Jackman. Before the show, designer Christian Siriano, who created her stunning red carpet gown, did her dress fitting from the hospital.
Although Settle calls "This Is Me" the song that "almost killed" her, she went on to give an incredible performance and had the entire Dolby Theater on their feet.
The following month, in April, Settle underwent a 10-hour double-bypass brain surgery that provided blood flow to the right side of her brain. However, there is no cure for Moyamoya.
"I have a new brain and that's meant starting over," she said. "I needed a blood transfusion to help move, and then I spent the entire first month doing a lot of cognitive and physical therapy to relearn how to walk, talk, write, and live life again. I've been growing my memory, too. I's all a process and I'm still working on it daily."
"The universe had its chance to take me and I'm still here," she added. "I'm just so grateful to be alive and I'm not giving that up."
Settle explained that her health scare and diagnosis has offered her a new outlook on life.
"It's shifted me in ways I'm still understanding," she said. "The way that I look at the world is so completely different. I'm more at peace than I've ever been; I can find the joy in things I never could. This truly gave me another lease on life."