Georgie Henley opened up about her battle with a “rare and punishing” bacterial infection that nearly resulted in her arm being amputated.
Henley, 27, who played Lucy in The Chronicles of Narnia films, spoke candidly about her health diagnosis on her Instagram on Tuesday where she shared a professional headshot in which the scars on her arm could be seen.
In the post, Henley revealed that she contracted necrotising fasciitis, a flesh-eating bacteria, nearly a decade ago when she was 18. “When I was 18 years old and in my sixth week of university, I contracted necrotising fasciitis, a rare and punishing infection that nearly claimed my life and wrought havoc throughout my body,” she wrote.
Henley then recalled having to undergo a “gruelling invasive surgery” in order to prevent amputation of her left arm and hand. In addition to the surgery to save her arm, the former child star also underwent “extensive reconstructive surgery”.
“In order to prevent the amputation of my left hand and arm I received gruelling invasive surgery, and later extensive reconstructive surgery which resulted in a series of skin grafts and scars,” she wrote.
In the emotional post, the actor said it’s been a long journey to healing both mentally and physically, and that she has hidden her scars “entirely in any professional context” for the last nine years.
“It has taken me a long time to heal both physically and mentally but I hoped that one day there would be the right time to talk about what happened. Today is a start,” she wrote.
Henley, who said that she has been open about her scars in her personal life, shared that her dedication to hiding her scars professionally has meant covering them in makeup or bandages, or wearing long sleeves “whenever [she] might be photographed”.
She also divulged that because of Hollwood’s focus on looks, she was worried her scars would prevent her from getting work.
“The industry I am part of often focuses on a very narrow idea of what is deemed aesthetic ‘perfection’, and I worried that my scars would prevent me from getting work,” she wrote. “The truth is there is no such thing as ‘perfection’, but I have still lived with the shame of feeling different, exacerbated by the expectations that came with beginning my career at a young age.”
Henley continued on to share that she has since realised that her scars are not something “to be ashamed of.”
“But my scars are not something to be ashamed of. They are a map of the pain my body has endured, and most importantly a reminder of my survival,” she continued. “They do not affect my capacity as an actor, and I’m proud to be a person who has visible scars in this industry.”
She expressed her gratitude to the hospital that treated her for its “exceptional care,” and for her friends and family, who have provided her with “enduring love and support throughout the hardest of times”.
“Thank you lastly to every person who is reading this and has supported me and my work, it truly means more than you can know,” she wrote.
Henley concluded the candid post by saying she plans to talk more about her experience in the future, but for now she is “simply happy to feel, for the first time in a very long time, finally free”.
Necrotising fasciitis is a rare bacterial infection that spreads quickly in the body and can cause death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The bacteria that causes the flesh-eating disease often enters the body through a break in the skin, with the CDC noting that the infection then kills the body’s soft tissue found around muscles, nerves, fat, and blood vessels.
Treatment for the infection requires hospitalisation, with the CDC stating that “antibiotics and surgery are typically the first lines of defence”. However, the agency states that, even with surgery, up to one in five people died from the infection in the most recent five years. Approximately 700 to 1,150 cases have occurred each year in the United States since 2010, though the organization also states that this is “likely an underestimate”.
While the disease can be deadly, the CDC says contracting necrotising fasciitis is rare. Most people who get the illness have other health problems that may lower the body’s ability to fight infection.
On Instagram, Henley’s post has been met with an outpouring of support from fans, followers and industry peers, with many applauding her for her bravery.
“Love you Geo,” Emma Corrin wrote, while Pearl Mackie commented: “Love you Georgie!”
“Keep being your incredible self and thank you for sharing your experience. You are truly amazing and thank you for being such a positive role model for me,” someone else wrote.
The post also prompted praise from individuals who have their own scars, with another person thanking Henley for the representation.
“Absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much for this - as someone with surgery scars of my own, this means the absolute world to me. You’re so incredibly strong and we all love you so much,” they wrote.