Fears for George Michael's voice after life-saving op


George Michael uttered a few halting words in front of his London home yesterday, describing his recent brush with death.

But it will be some months before it is clear whether the singer's voice has survived his month-long ordeal.

Wearing dark glasses and wrapped up in a scarf and coat, he managed to speak to reporters for only a couple of minutes before needing to stop.

With visible emotion he thanked fans and staff at the hospital in Austria where he suffered a life-threatening bout of pneumonia last month.

"I feel amazing. I mean I'm very weak but I feel amazing. I got a form of pneumonia and they spent three weeks keeping me alive," he said.

The infection, which causes the lungs to fill with secretions, resulting in a sensation of drowning, had been so severe that he required a tracheotomy to save his life. That involved surgically inserting a tube at the base of his throat direct into his trachea, or windpipe, through which oxygen was pumped to ventilate his lungs.

Although the incision was made below the voicebox, the operation can result in scarring of the trachea with permanent effects on the voice.

The 48-year-old singer fell ill in Austria on his Symphonica world tour after playing 45 shows in 35 cities, and was forced to cancel the 14 remaining dates. Doctors warned him that the chances of making a quick return to the stage were "remote".

Gerrit Wohlt, an Austrian ear, nose and throat surgeon, said at the time the treatment he needed could put his voice in danger. "In the worst-case scenario, being on a ventilator could harm his vocal cords. He could end up with a hoarse voice, so a new year comeback is unlikely. He will need months of rest," he said.

Changes in the voice are common during the first few weeks after a tracheotomy. The incision heals up quickly, in one to two weeks, but it takes longer for the inflammation to subside and the voice to return to normal. Hoarseness, weakness or a whispering quality are signs things may be going wrong. Some patients suffer permanent changes to their voice.

Michael said yesterday: "I'm incredibly fortunate to be here. And incredibly fortunate to have picked up this bug where I did because the hospital in Austria where they rushed me to was absolutely the best place in the world I could have been to deal with pneumonia. I have to believe that somebody thinks I've still got some work to do here."

He said the thought of his family kept him going, together with "all the people I still have to play to".

"I've been so lucky. I still have plenty to live for – I've had an amazing, amazing life. If I wasn't spiritual enough before the last four or five weeks, then I certainly am now.

"I'm really sorry that I couldn't contact [my fans] in any way before now but I really wasn't in a state to. But I promise them absolutely without question the plan is to play to every single person who had a ticket."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower