DAYS’s Suzanne Rogers shares the harrowing details of the medical scare that kept her out of Salem for six months.
Soap Opera Digest: Welcome back, Suzanne! You were on a long break from the show. Can you tell the story of what happened?
Suzanne Rogers: Well, I will start by saying it wasn’t Covid. It was one of those freaky accidents of swallowing a pill and it not going down. It was last November 18th. I had washed my hair that day and set it in curlers, which I do when I’m going to clean house. I figure that way my hair is set and I’m doing two things at one time. I remembered I hadn’t taken one of my horse pills, so I took the pill and I guess I didn’t drink enough water and I thought, “Gosh, that didn’t go down.” So I drank some more water. Well then it wasn’t going up or down and I got to a point where I thought, “I’m not breathing really well here.” And so panic kind of set in because since my mother passed away, I live by myself, so I was concerned. I managed to get to the phone and I called 911 because I didn’t know what to do and I was choking the words out, and in five minutes they were here. I don’t know why the EMTs didn’t try a Heimlich maneuver but they just put me on a gurney and said, “What hospital?” and put an oxygen thing on my nose and I don’t remember a whole lot beyond that.
Digest: When did you get a sense of what happened?
Rogers: I just know that when I did wake up, my curlers were no longer in my hair and most of my hair was in the curlers. So it was a scary kind of realization that I had. I had scabs all over my scalp and I was really kind of scared that I didn’t know what was going on. I know they put me on a ventilator because they thought I had pneumonia, also. But I had been to my doctor the week before, who listened to my heart, listened to my lungs, did a whole blood panel and nothing. I didn’t get any bad results from any of it and all of a sudden, now I have pneumonia? It was right at the height of Covid, so I don’t know if they thought maybe it was going to go into that. All of a sudden, I was aware of where I was and I kept seeing patients being brought in that did have Covid and I thought, “I gotta get out of here,” because I was concerned I was going to get it. That was the fear. They said, “Well, you’ve been here for two weeks.” And that was a shock because I wasn’t aware of any of it. They said, “You have to go to rehab.” And then the myasthenia [gravis, an autoimmune disease that Rogers was diagnosed with in the ’80s] kicked in and it was kind of a snowball effect of, “When is this going to stop?”
Digest: What happened next?
Rogers: I did go to rehab. I must say, they were wonderful to me. They said, “We like you because you just want to work,” and I said, “I just want to get out of here.” I was just determined because it was at a stage where I didn’t think I was going to get home. I didn’t think I was ever going to see my house again or my dog. So that was scary and I prayed a lot. It was very frightening on top of being scary. Scary and frightening are two different things to me. Scary is something you can’t control. Frightening is something that you go, “Oh, my goodness,” and you manufacture something in your brain that can take you down a really bad road, and I was trying to avoid that. And the thing of it is, because Covid was rampant, there were no visitors, so I went through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s all by myself. And it was very scary because at first you think, “Where are my friends?” And then I realized that they couldn’t come to see me because there were no visitors allowed in the hospital at all. Ken [Corday, executive producer] got the phone number to the hospital where I was and he would call and cheer me up and sent beautiful flowers from the show. That got me through it, that’s all I can say. Thank God for every good wish that I had.
Digest: When did you get home and when did you return to the show?
Rogers: Well, I got back to my house on January 4th. It was a long, arduous rehab. I went back to the show toward the end of May and it felt kind of strange because I had said to them, “I don’t know what we’re going to do about my hair.” And, of course, they had no idea what I was talking about because nobody knew anything about anything. But I talked to the hair people, so I’ve been wearing a wig on the show. And that’s what the audience will see and until I feel like my hair looks okay, I will continue to wear it because I don’t want to break the illusion. Right now, I feel more comfortable that it’s something I don’t have to worry about. You just want to do your work and do your job and hold up your end and I didn’t want that to be one of the things that I was worried about. And it looks beautiful. Yay for all the advances they made in hair for people that need to have it, like people that have cancer and chemo and alopecia. Thank God they have wigs now that look great. I just remember when I reached up to my head at one point in the hospital, I felt all these scabs all over my head and I thought, “What is going on?” Of course you have no mirror and you can’t get out of bed so you don’t know what’s going on so your mind goes crazy. I looked like Beetlejuice with red hair. It was horrific. And for someone who had mounds of hair her whole life — and long hair — I have to tell you, at my age, I wasn’t sure it was going to grow back. So it was joyous to see it growing. So that’s what I’ve been through. You don’t want to be a downer, you don’t want to let your fans know that you’re going through this when you’re going through it. Once you’re through it, it’s like, “This is what I’ve been going through and I kept it from you but I want you to know that somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew people were wishing me well. Whatever was going on, that they were sending me good wishes.” That’s how I look at the whole thing. And I think I was still in some kind of state having lost my mom, so I think things kind of snowballed because she had been with me for so long. I think my defenses were down, that I didn’t have the fight I needed to have to get through this. But then I got it back. I mean, it was horrific. I was like, “This can’t be me.” Somebody who was always physical and exercised, a dancer. I thought, “Well, I guess this is something I have to learn from and appreciate every day even more than I did before.” So that’s kind of how I’m looking at my life right now.
Digest: How was your transition back to work?
Rogers: I felt aflutter at first because I was scared. You don’t know what you don’t know. And I thought, “Oh, my goodness, can I do this?” And obviously I wasn’t 100 percent, but I felt that I was well enough. And they were very gracious. They said, “Look, you just let us know how much you want to work and we will accommodate you.” And that’s a biggie because when you know you’re not 100 percent, that’s very heart-wrenching to me, so I was very happy that I didn’t have any pressure whatsoever.
Digest: How did it feel to play Maggie again?
Rogers: It was like love at first sight? I don’t know. I had to find her again and find those little nuances that over the years I had found and I had used. It’s almost like she’s a new person. That’s how I feel. Like she’s a new person.
Digest: What was it like to see John Aniston (Victor) again?
Rogers: Oh, my goodness. It was so nice. He said, “What did you have?” I said, “Well, it wasn’t anything contagious, so don’t worry about it [laughs].” That’s how we talk to each other. Anyway, it was wonderful. He is just so lovable. He really is. I just love working with him and I think the writers have been really cognizant of the fact that we like each other, and on the show we’re husband and wife so we love each other. I haven’t worked with him enough; I’ve been working with a whole bunch of other people, which is also wonderful. I’m looking forward to more with John.
Digest: When Maggie comes back, it’s after Summer’s death. How is she coping?
Rogers: Well, she was really hoping that Sarah would have come home and realized that Maggie needed her, so she goes through it by herself. But when Maggie comes back, she has a different perspective, like, “Wow, life isn’t always a bed of roses.” She kind of lived like that, always saw the good and always saw the possibilities, and all of a sudden, here was this daughter who blamed Maggie for her alcoholism because Maggie had been an alcoholic. She had that weighing on her soul and that’s why she stayed away and took care of Summer in her last days. So there were a lot of little things that I was trying to play. It hurts Maggie’s soul that she might have been responsible, so that’s another reason why she’s a little humble about what had happened to Summer and now she’s had to pick herself up again. She needs to be there for the rest of her family. She’s not going to let anybody else down. She felt like she let Summer down.
Digest: How are you feeling today?
Rogers: I feel terrific and I relish being vertical every day. I feel I’m very much getting back to me so now I can talk to the fans about what had transpired. You think you’re a pretty good person and then something like this happens and you go, “Gee, I’m going to be more open, I’m going to be more loving, I’m going to be more acknowledging. I’m going to say hello to people and how are you and gee, you look great today.” I find myself so much more there, present. When I’m talking to someone, I’m so present. I’m not looking around. I’m right there and eye-to-eye. It’s a good feeling.