Tatum O’Neal reveals heartbreaking medical news: “almost died” from stroke after drug overdose

Tatum O’Neal was one of the biggest child stars of the 1970s. The daughter of Hollywood leading man Ryan O’Neal, she co-starred with her dad in the 1973 film Paper Moon and became the youngest-ever Oscar winner at age 10.
But like many child stars, O’Neal’s career struggled and she faced many personal troubles and substance abuse issues.

O’Neal, now 59, just revealed some heartbreaking news, saying she nearly died three years ago from a stroke caused by a drug overdose.
“I almost died”

In a new interview with People Magazine, O’Neal and her family described her severe and life-threatening health crisis. During the pandemic, O’Neal had been abusing prescription medications that had been prescribed for her rheumatoid arthritis and back pain.

O’Neal overdosed on the drugs in May 2020, leading to a severe stroke that left her in a six-week coma. She also suffered cardiac arrest and several seizures, according to her kids.

“It was the phone call we’d always been waiting for,” recalls Kevin McEnroe, O’Neal’s son with tennis star John McEnroe. “There were times we didn’t think she was going to survive.”
Her son said he didn’t think “there was much hope” for her, as she was isolated and placed on heavier medication and morphine. O’Neal was later diagnosed with aphasia from damage to the brain.

“At times, it was touch and go,” Kevin told People. “I had to call my brother and sister and say she was thought to be blind, deaf and potentially might never speak again.”

Recovery and sobriety

But eventually, O’Neal pulled through, and began a long road to recovery. For two years she has undergone therapy to regain her memory and vocabulary.

The actress is also attending twelve step meetings. The near-death experience has been a wake-up call for O’Neal and her family, and O’Neal has a new resolve to get sober for good after decades of struggle.

“I’ve been trying to get sober my whole life,” O’Neal told People. “Every day, I am trying… I want to be with my beautiful three kids.”
“I see an enormous amount of hope,” her son Kevin added. “To me this last chapter where she wants to live, wants to get sober, wants to learn, I think it’s a miracle. I think it’s beautiful. I’ve never been more proud to be her son. She’s full of love and full of heart.”

Tatum O’Neal: life and career

O’Neal’s struggles began long before her stroke: she has had a very troubled personal life that, as a former child star, has often played out in public.

O’Neal was born November 5, 1963, the daughter of Ryan O’Neal — the star of films like Love Story and Barry Lyndon — and actress Joanna Moore.

Tatum O’Neal co-starred with her dad in the 1973 Peter Bogdanovich film Paper Moon, and received widespread acclaim for her performance as the 9-year-old apprentice of a con man during the Great Depression.
At age 10, O’Neal won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress; she still holds the record as the youngest-ever winner. She re-teamed with her father in Nickelodeon in 1976 and starred in The Bad News Bears.

But O’Neal started experimenting with drugs at an early age, and has struggled with severe substance abuse problems throughout her life, including additions to heroin and crack cocaine. In 2008, she was arrested for buying crack outside her apartment, and was charged with misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance after police found additional drugs on her.

O’Neal dated Michael Jackson as a teenager and married tennis star John McEnroe in 1986. Their marriage was tumultuous, and O’Neal has alleged physical and emotional abuse by her husband.

They divorced in 1994, and the ensuing, bitter custody battle pushed their domestic disputes and O’Neal’s drug problems to the tabloid spotlight.
Tatum O’Neal has also had a strained relationship with her father, now 82. She has alleged drug-related abuse by her father, which Ryan has denied. The two have made attempts at reconciliation over the years.

In the 2000s, O’Neal made an acting comeback with guest starring roles in Sex and the City, 8 Simple Rules and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

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