Hollyoaks star Nikki Sanderson opens up about real-life motor neurone disease heartbreak

While the actress was playing the storyline on screen, it was happening in her own life too

Hollyoaks star Nikki Sanderson has opened up on Lorraine about her real-life heartbreak at discovering a close friend has motor neurone disease.

In a case of life imitating art, Nikki was part of a huge storyline where her on-screen husband, Patrick Blake was also diagnosed with the condition.

Off-screen, Nikki has been dealing with very similar emotions to those her character went through as she supports close friend Hayley Read through the illness.

Appearing on Thursday’s Lorraine, Nikki, alongside her mum Jude, opened up about Hayley’s fight.

Hayley was first diagnosed in June last year, but the symptoms had been showing before that. Nikki explained:

“Hayley was a performer, she was very vibrant very charismatic, and the first thing we noticed was her speech was slurring, but a year before Hayley had had a brain haemorrhage.

“Fortunately her son found her and got her help really quickly and she recovered. They put a coil in her brain, so we presumed the speech was something to do with the coil maybe slipping or something.”

Nikki’s storyline was reflected in her real life (Credit: ITV)

Nikki also went on to reveal she would laugh at Hayley at times before they knew what was altering her behaviour so severely.

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Nikki and Hayley are good friends (Credit: ITV)

“I remember I would laugh at her because we would be talking just as we are now, and then she’d burst out crying and sobbing. Or she’d just start laughing at really inappropriate times.

“I would say: ‘What are you doing? Why are you being weird?’ That was actually a sign but we didn’t know it at the time.”

Lorraine said: “The cruelty of it is that her brain is fine, she can’t move now, I believe.”

Lorraine described the disease as incredibly ‘cruel’ (Credit: ITV)

“No, she’s immobile,” Nikki added.

But with her brain functioning normally, she’s “still Hayley” and is aware of everything that’s going on around her.

With the cause so close to her heart, Nikki is now putting on a selection of Hayley’s work as a playwright at the Theatre Royal in Ramsbottom to raise awareness.

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All of the proceeds from the night will be donated to the Motor Neurone Disease Association, who Nikki said did “phenomenal” work.