In the August 2013 issue of Guitar World magazine, Kathryn Hanneman, the wife of late SLAYER guitarist Jeff Hanneman, recalled the spider bite that he suffered in January 2011 and the resulting infection that ravaged the flesh and tissues of Jeff‘s arm, leading to numerous surgeries, skin grafts and intense periods of rehab that forced him into semi-retirement, depression, and left him near death at several points
Describing the night that Jeff felt a small prick on his arm from a spider bite at a friend’s house, Kathryn told Guitar World that she knew there was something wrong when he walked in:
“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.’”
Jeff was intoxicated and refused to go to hospital, but the next morning she managed to get him into the car despite his lack of strength.
“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 … neither of us thought it would be a life-or-death situation.”
Three hours later, everything had changed.
“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… [pause] was one of the hardest moments of my life.”
Kathryn says she encouraged him to go to rehab to get over the effects of the resting flesh-eating illness, but all he wanted was to get back to playing guitar.
“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.”
For the rest of this story, plus a Jeff Hanneman poster, order a copy of the Guitar World August 2013 issue at the Guitar World online store.