Greg Page: Battling My Way Back to the Wiggles
After 15 years in the wildly popular children’s group, the Wiggles, Greg Page had gotten used to his rather unusual routine. He’d don his costume (he was “Yellow”), sing songs about everything from fruit salad to pirates in four shows a day, then greet his adoring fans-most of whom were under the age of 5. But at the end of the day, “we’d get on the bus, and I’d be so exhausted I’d sit alone and not talk to anyone,” he says. Then one night, after a show, “I was squatting backstage to talk to a child, and when I stood up, I just collapsed,” he recalls. Amid many fainting spells, Page was medically tested for everything from SARS to epilepsy. “It was driving me mad, not knowing what was wrong with me,” he says. “I couldn’t go on like that.”
In 2006, with worsening symptoms and no diagnosis, Page decided to hang up his yellow jersey. “I had to, for my health. And if I’d continued in the state I was in, I might have passed out onstage and scared the children,” the 40-year-old recalls as he sits on the couch at his home in Dural, New South Wales, Australia. He struggled with chronic fatigue, loss of sensation in his limbs and light-headedness. “It was dreadfully sad to see him in that state,” says Paul Field, the group’s manager. “He physically wasn’t able to function, let alone perform.”
In the end, the break from Wigglemania was just what he needed. After dozens of tests, doctors discovered Page suffered from a condition called orthostatic intolerance, a cardiovascular disease, which he was relieved to learn could be managed with medication and lifestyle adjustments. “Just to know that what I had had a name, and it wasn’t terminal, and it could be treated was wonderful,” he says. Now well enough to be off medication, Page is set to reprise his role as the Yellow Wiggle as the band embarks on their 2012 tour. “I feel,” he says, “like I’m getting a second chance.”
For years he feared he’d never perform again. “I couldn’t see how I was ever going to be well enough,” he says. Leaving the group-just as he was going through a contentious split from his first wife, Michelle-led to emotional stress. “It was a dark time for me,” he admits.
His diagnosis later that year was the first step toward recovery. He then reconnected with an old friend, Vanessa Reid, 40-the mother of two children, Claudia, 7, and Hayden, 9-who had just lost her husband to cancer. “Her outlook was incredible. She wasn’t going to let a negative event dictate her life. It was inspiring,” says Page. They married in 2010 and had Lara, 2, and Cameron, 6 months. (Page has a son, Blaine, 22, and a daughter, Madison, 15, with his ex.)
Now that he’s rejoining the band, Page is trying to get “as fit as I can be,” he says. He’s hitting the treadmill to build stamina and will adjust his routines so he’s never standing for too long. “Simple measures have been effective in helping his condition, but he’ll need to be careful with the rigors of the tour,” his physician Susan Corcoran advises. But this time, says Page, “I know what limits I have.” Despite any concerns, Page says he can’t wait to perform for one audience in particular: his kids. “They think of me as Dad,” he says. “Now they’ll grow up seeing me as a Wiggle as well.”