British heavy metal vocalist Blaze Bayley (IRON MAIDEN, WOLFSBANE), whose wife, Debbie Hartland, died late last month after suffering a brain hemorrhage while in the hospital, has released the following statement:
"Thank you all for your support through this most difficult time.
"Some weeks before Debbie had her first brain haemorrhage, we were talking about what we would do if anything ever happened to the other partner. I don't really know why this came up, but perhaps it was something to do with the loss of her nephew, who a few weeks before was involved in a fatal road accident.
"'What am I supposed to do if anything happens to you?' She said. I had forgotten to take some medication for my blood pressure, prescribed by the doctor, and she was annoyed with me. In an argumentative way I said, 'And what am I supposed to do if anything happens to you?' I can see her in my mind so clearly now, as she stopped what she was doing and looked at me and said, 'What would you do if anything happened to me?'
"'Nothing,' I said, 'I would give up. There is no reason to live if you are not with me.' She looked at me, and smiled, the way she did when she knew that when I said I loved her I meant it.
"'No,' she said, 'I'd want you to carry on with your music.'
"A couple of weeks after that conversation Debbie was in a coma.
"The doctor told us that this brain haemorrhage could have been caused by an AVM, something that we as a family had never heard of before. It is an abnormality in the brain that you are born with and may never hurt you or it can strike you down.
"That brief casual conversation we had came to the front of my mind when I was faced with the decision of going away to do the concerts that Debbie had booked for me and the band. I could only think that she had really meant it when she said, 'I'd want you to carry on.' It was very hard to face being away from her while she was so ill. The first time was the day after it happened. Debbie was rushed into hospital on Sunday the 6th of July. The night before we were all at Twickenham with IRON MAIDEN. The gig was great. The backstage was free food and booze. I met loads of people I hadn't seen for years and Debbie made a lot of friends and contacts. We were telling everyone that the album would be out on Monday. When Monday came the world had changed. Debbie was in a coma in the neuro-critical care unit in hospital in Birmingham.
"Debbie had organized a signing for the band at HMV in Birmingham at 5pm. At this point only close family and the band knew what the situation was. The hospital was 15 minutes away from the signing. Debbie was critical but stable. I decided to try and make it to the signing and get back as soon as possible.
"That was one of the toughest things I have ever done in my life.
"The next thing she had planned was a promotional trip to Italy for me. Right up until the last minute, I was going, but then the evening before I had no choice but to pull out because Debbie had to have a surgery on her brain and there was a risk that she would not make it. I told Fulvio, my friend of many years and manager of the CLAIRVOYANTS band, who had organized the trip, what the situation was. As we waited for Debbie to come out of the surgery, then to come round from the anaesthetic, me and everyone else in the family, were camped out at the hospital and we were on edge. Occasionally I would go outside to check text messages and update the rest of my family on Debbie's situation. On the Sunday afternoon I had a text message from Fulvio in Italy. It said... festival cancelled because of a terrible thunder and lightning storm. So, I thought, that trip that Debbie and me were looking forward to so much was never meant to happen.
"Debbie had two more operations on her brain, and one on her stomach for a special feeding tube called 'a peg,' but none of these coincided with any of the gigs she had booked for us. So I was able to leave her side for a few days at a time to do the shows she had planned for us. When these shows were done, I was able to spend most of my time with her at the hospital between visits from family and friends. The rest of the guys in the band continued to run things and carry on with Debbie's plan for the tour in 2009.
"About a week after Debbie's last brain surgery her condition seemed to improve in a small but significant way. Her periods of deep unresponsive coma seemed a little less and in the times when she seemed in a more wakeful state she seemed more awake than she had since the brain haemorrhage first happened. There were moments, seconds, of awareness, but I knew; I could see, that she was there trying to fight her way back to the world and back to me. The physiotherapist and occupational therapists showed me all the excises Debbie had to do to give us the best chance of keeping the movement and mobility in her limbs and her joints so as she gradually improved she would have more movement and less work to do with the physio. I did the exercises with her every day that I was at the hospital. I imagined her coming home. I imagined changing the house to make it easier for her to get about, and I imagined touring next year and hoping she would be well enough to come with us on a tour bus, and we could do her exercises and therapy around the gigs. I felt that if anyone could come back from this it was Debbie. I felt, I believed, that she was on her way back to me. The days seemed more hopeful.
"For me, every day she was alive was another day I was blessed. Every day she made even the tiniest improvement I was celebrating. I cried tears of joy on many occasions when we were doing our exercises. She could not talk or open her eyes and many of the movements she made were instinctive or involuntary, but there were also times when her movements were a direct response to a request. 'Wiggle your toes, Deb,' I asked and she could move the toes on her right foot. 'Squeeze my hand,' and she could squeeze my hand with her right hand. 'Open your hand,' and she could open it. 'Close your hand' and she could close it. 'Shake your head,' and the tiny movement of her head made me burst into tears. Her left side was difficult for her because that side seemed to have been the worst affected. The physio called it her weak side. As we continued every day to work on our movement, she even managed to make a very small movement with her left foot. Hardly anything but it was there, and it made me burst into tears of pride and happiness when she did it. At this time I was with her every night, beside her bed in a chair, watching her to make sure that she did not injure herself as she squirmed around in bed. Her right foot seemed to search for things she could feel with her toes. With her right hand she sometimes tried to pull out the tracheotomy breathing tube. Other times she would have a terrible choking cough and would have treatment from the nurse. These nights were painful and beautiful for me. Even though it was in circumstances that were terrible, I was spending each night with my wife. Around noon Deb's mum and dad or sister would come over to carry on watching over her and I would go home. I checked my email and every day we had messages of support from fans from every part of the world. I would talk over what was happening with band business with Nick and Dave and then try to get a little rest ready for the evening with Debbie.
"Just as things really seemed to be going our way, Debbie suffered a second huge brain haemorrhage. She had brain scans and was taken into intensive care. After this, we think, she suffered another smaller bleed in her brain. However much reality I was faced with I refused to accept that there was no hope for recovery. But when reality is a top consultant doctor, spelling out bit by bit the true magnitude of Debbie's condition, and when you are in his office with the people, who you have shared the hope, tears, and desperation of these days with you, and when you look at each other without needing words between you. Then it is no longer a case of fighting to keep hope alive, to stop the last shreds of hope being taken from you. But as the soft confident voice says the words that describe the condition of your loved one's brain, then hope is given up. Hope melts away. It is something so precious but without worldly value and it is replaced silently and cruelly by a desperate fatalistic feeling, that feeling enters the soul that, now, has no hope.
"Debbie fought on for two more nights. On the morning of the 27th of September at 10.05am Debbie passed away with her mother and me holding her and comforting her as she started her journey to next life, beyond this world of pain and suffering. In that moment my heart was broken.
"I was living only for her, because she had said those weeks before that she wanted me to carry on. Then I decided to try and do the Metieval Festival in Beverley near Hull. I had become ill since Debbie's passing and the doctor gave me what he could to try and help me keep my voice, and keep at bay the flu or chest infection or virus that I was coming down with. The gig was very difficult and I wondered if my voice would last to the end. The last song of the set was Debbie's song, 'While You Were Gone'. Somehow the sound on stage had cleared up and my voice had got some small amount of strength left and I managed to sing it for her. It was the first time we ever did the song live and for her not to be there to hear it, was again, very difficult.
"On Tuesday was the funeral; the biggest that the tiny parish church had seen in recent years. The most flowers the funeral people had ever had for any one they could remember. Everyone she ever met seemed to still be connected to her. If she had been their friend, even briefly, then people still seemed to feel that connection years later.
"On Friday there was a small private service. Debbie's ashes were placed in a private place where those of us who loved her can visit.
"I thank you for your support and friendship and loyalty through this time. It is my belief that in the worst of times, our true nature is revealed. My band have been unwavering in their support of Debbie and of me. My fans have made me humble with their generosity of spirit and their loyalty and understanding. I have lost the love of my life. I have lost my reason to live. But, because she asked me to continue to live, and to stay true to the path she worked so hard to make clear for me, I will continue. For her and for you, all of you that believed she was right to have faith in me, I will continue. For her memory and to honour her, I will continue."