In an emotional interview, the widow of former Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman has spoken to Guitar World about the events that led to her late husband’s demise. Kathryn Hanneman recalls how she pleaded with her husband to get medical help immediately after a debilitating spider bite, but Jeff simply refused.
The problems began following the spider bite Jeff received while in LA. Despite the arm being “bright red and three times the normal size” it was a full week before Hanneman made it to the hospital, finally getting it checked out the morning after showing the wound to his wife.
A few hours into his stay at hospital, the weight of the situation was realised. It became clear that losing his arm was the least of Jeff’s worries, as he could potentially die from the necrotizing fasciitis contracted from the bite. Kathryn explained, “The doctor put it in perspective for me. He said, ‘I need you to see your husband. He may not make it.’”
Kathryn urged Jeff to get further assistance once he left hospital, but he seemed to have only one thing on his mind: “I think he thought he could do this on his own — that he would just to go to rehearsal and play, and that that would be his rehab.”
But Jeff soon realised he couldn’t play like he used to and, as his wife puts it, “That really hit him hard, and he started to lose hope.”
The full interview will be live in the August edition of Guitar World. Until then you can read the below snippet.
“Jeff had been visiting a friend in the L.A. area. He was in the Jacuzzi one night relaxing, and he had his arm over the side, and he felt something, like a bite or a prick. But of course he didn’t think anything of it. He came home about a week later, and he was pretty well lit when he came through the front door. He wasn’t feeling well, and he just wanted to go upstairs and go to sleep.
Before he did he said, ‘Kath, I need to show you something, even though I really don’t want to.’ And he took off his shirt, and I just freaked out when I saw his arm. It was bright red and three times the normal size. I said, ‘Jeff, we need to go now. We need to get you to the ER.’ But all he wanted to do was go to bed and sleep, and I knew that I was trying to rationalize with a very intoxicated person. So there was nothing I could do that night. But the next morning I convinced him to let me take him in. He didn’t have a lot of strength, but I was able to get him into the car.
When we got to the hospital in Loma Linda, they took one look at him and they immediate knew what it was, so they took him right in. Jeff told me to go home because we both knew he’d be there for hours and neither of us thought it would be a life-or-death situation.
About three or four hours later, Jeff called me and said, ‘Kath, it’s not good. They may have to amputate. I think you need to come back here.’ When I got there, Jeff was on the stretcher waiting to go into surgery, and the doctor put it in perspective for me. He said, ‘I need you to see your husband. He may not make it.’ The doctor looked at Jeff and told him, ‘First I’m going to try to save your life. Then I’m going to try to save your arm. Then I’m going to try to save your career.’ And looking at Jeff on that stretcher and possibly saying goodbye, knowing that I may never see him again… was one of the hardest moments of my life.
I couldn’t get Jeff to go to rehab or therapy. I think he was letting the visual of his arm get to his emotions, and it was messing with his mind. It was hard to keep him upbeat at that point.
I think he thought he could do this on his own — that he would just to go rehearsal and play, and that that would be his rehab. But I think he started to learn, once he tried rehearsing, that he wasn’t playing up to his ability and that he wasn’t able to play guitar at the speed he was used to. And I think that really hit him hard, and he started to lose hope.”
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