Jeff Hanneman’s passing is still on the minds of everyone in the metal community. And in a new interview with Guitar World Magazine (the August 2013 issue), the late Slayer guitarist’s wife Kathryn gives new insight behind the now infamous spider bite incident and death, admitting that she struggled to get him to attend therapy or rehab during the recovering process. According to Kathryn, the guitarists wound had not only physical but profound emotional effects on Jeff.
Kathryn Hanneman tells all in this excerpt from the Guitar World story:
“Jeff had been visiting a friend in the L.A. area. 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…”—she pauses—“…was one of the hardest moments of my life.”
The wound resulting from the bite was not what led to Hanneman’s eventual death, but the thought of his arm not functioning in the way it was supposed to drew Jeff into a depression that sapped his willpower, making him unwilling to attend rehab or therapy:
“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.”
Having a body part out of commission without sight of recovery is hard for anyone. This is especially true for one of the forefathers of speed metal, whos ability to play guitar impacted every aspect of his life. His injury consumed his life, which began to involve painful skin grafts and surgeries. His passing was caused by liver failure, but the infected arm did not make his last days any easier. The full story is available in the August 2013 issue of Guitar World.