Jeff Hanneman Was Depressed Following Near-Fatal Spider Bite, Wife Says
Unsurprisingly, the new issue of Guitar World features a tribute to late Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman. And while we generally expect a memorial such as this one to be pretty much all sunshine and roses and happy memories, an interview with Hanneman’s widow, Kathryn, actually paints a fairly grim portrait of Hanneman following his near-fatal spider bite in 2011. Blabbermouth has helpfully transcribed a portion of this interview:
“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 Jeffon that stretcher and possibly saying goodbye, knowing that I may never see him again… was one of the hardest moments of my life.”
But the story has a happy ending because Jeff lived, right? Wrong. Kathryn continues:
“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.”
I’d love it if the interview concluded, “But then we got a puppy and Jeff was happy again for the rest of his days!”, but given that Hanneman died from cirrhosis of the liver, I’m guessing there are no puppies or kittens or anything adorable mentioned in the discussion. Hanneman was always known as a heavy drinker — heck, Kathryn says right up there that he might have gotten to the ER a helluva lot sooner if he hadn’t been intoxicated when he was initially bitten — and who knows, maybe he would suffered the same fate regardless. But it isn’t hard to imagine that sitting at home at two years, depressed and unable to channel his energy into his art, increased his drinking even further.