SLAYER founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman — who in January contracted necrotizing fasciitis, likely caused by a spider bite, and has been undergoing surgeries, skin grafts and intense rehab since — spoke to U.K.'s Classic Rock magazine about his recovery which has seen him sit out an entire year's worth of touring with the band.
Hanneman was kicking back in a hot tub with a couple of beers when noticed a spider bite him on the arm.
"Didn't even feel it," he says now. "But an hour later, I knew that I was ill." On his way to the hospital, "I could see the flesh corrupting," he recalls. "The arm was real hot. I got to the emergency room, and thank god the nurse knew straight away what it was. By chance, although it's pretty rare, she had seen a case a little while before. At that point, I was an hour away from death."
Although the spider bite itself was not serious, it had caused bacterial infection in the deeper layers of the skin and tissues of the arm.
"Unbelivably, the doctor was a SLAYER fan," says Hanneman, "First thing he said to me was: 'First I am going to save your life. Then I am going to save your arm. Then I am going to save your career.'"
Hanneman underwent emergency surgery to remove the dead and dying tissue. The doctor was able to save the muscles and the tendons, but the guitarist had a large open wound on his arm. He spent the next two months in hospital, having extensive skin grafts and heavy doses of antibiotics to suppress the infection.
"I had to learn to walk again," Hanneman says: "I hadn't stood up for a month, apart from anything else. The skin grafts were very painful and all the muscles and tendons in the arm where very weak. That was ok though. I count myself lucky that the nurse and doctor knew right away what had happened to me, because things could have been a whole lot worse."
While Hanneman's SLAYER bandmates fufilled their touring commitments with stand-in guitarist Gary Holt (EXODUS), Jeff spent most of 2011 rehabilitating. With the worst of it behind him, Hanneman can see the humour in the situation, too.
"It's the kind of thing I might have written a song about," he acknowledges. "Everything that could go wrong this year did, but you know, it turned out okay. Satan had my back."
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Pictured below: Jeff Hanneman on April 23, 2011 in Indio, California (photo credit: Andrew Stuart)