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 and left him near death at several points.
“Jeff had been visiting a friend in the L.A. area,” said Kathryn. “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.”
According to Kathryn, Jeff struggled emotionally and developed major depression after he returned home and began the process of rehabilitating his arm in the hopes of regaining his ability to play guitar.
“I couldn’t get Jeff to go to rehab or therapy,” Kathryn said. “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.