Earlier this month, Ozzy Osbourne had to cancel the remainder of his North American tour due to multiple infections in his right hand. Now, the heavy metal legend has revealed the full extent of the painful and terrifying ordeal in an interview with Rolling Stone.
Osbourne first realized something was up when his thumb swelled up to "the size of a f*ckin’ lightbulb," he said.
One night after a show in Salt Lake City, he had trouble putting a thumb ring back on. The next morning, he woke up to find it had swollen to 10 times its normal size, so his wife Sharon rushed him to the ER. But Osbourne still didn't realize quite how serious his situation was until the doctors diagnosed him with a potentially deadly staph infection in his thumb—three infections, actually, one of which had also spread to his middle finger. “I didn’t feel sick, so I was cracking jokes,” the singer said. Sharon asked him to stop.
“The doctor said, ‘I don’t know if you realize, Mr. Osbourne, this is a very serious problem you have,’" Osbourne recalled. He ended up needing emergency surgery to remove the three areas of infection. The surgeon froze his thumb and went in on the left side of the nail bed to scoop out the infected tissue. Although they numbed the area, the procedure was still extremely painful. “They cut all this stuff out. Even with the numbing stuff, it was agony," he said. "It wasn’t pus, but it was the stage after pus, when it gets in the blood and goes in your body and fucking kills you. It may sound fucked up what I’m saying to you, but he was really concerned about checking my blood.”
After the surgery, Osbourne spent nearly a week in the hospital getting antibiotics to make sure there weren't any more bacteria spreading throughout his body. “I could hardly move,” he said. “I really had no energy.” (Fortunately, Osbourne got to enjoy a few ice cream cones during his stay, a small joy he shared with fans on Instagram.)
Staph infections, caused by staphylococcus bacteria, can develop life-threatening complications.
Staphylococcus bacteria are often found hanging out on the skin or in the nose of perfectly healthy people without ever causing an infection, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The bacteria can also be spread between people, which is what Osbourne's medical team suspects happened to him. “The doctor said to me, ‘Can you remember talking to someone and shaking hands?'” Osbourne told Rolling Stone. “Well, I do that meet and greet at the gig and I must shake f*cking 200 hands a day. He said, ‘That explains it.'”
When a staph infection does cause symptoms on the skin, they might include pus-filled boils, sores, painful rashes, swelling, and, possibly, a fever. And if left untreated, it's possible to develop serious complications. For instance, if the bacteria spread deeper into the body and enter the bloodstream, a patient may develop sepsis, a response to infection that may be life-threatening.
Luckily, most infections are minor and can be treated with standard antibiotics. More severe infections may require surgical drainage of the infected area along with antibiotics. However, antibiotic resistance is making some cases difficult to treat, MedlinePlus explains. Increasingly, doctors need to administer intravenous antibiotics—as in Osbourne's case—to treat serious staph infections as more strains, like MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), develop resistance to the usual treatment.
Osbourne's treatment was successful, and after a few weeks of recovery, he's feeling almost completely himself again.
After leaving the hospital, Osbourne was forced to take it easy for a few weeks. He soaked his hand in a soap the doctors gave him twice a day for 10 days and saw a specialist three times a week. Unfortunately, getting back on stage to finish off the remainder of his tour after leaving the hospital was out of the question, Osbourne learned. “The doctor said, ‘You must be fucking crazy. You get another staph infection, and you could die.’ He said, ‘One’s enough. You’ve got three individual ones.'”
Today, Osbourne says he feels "about 85 to 90 percent" better. "So I’m well on the mend.” And while he's bummed that he had to call off his shows—which have since been rescheduled for summer 2019, according to Rolling Stone—he's well aware how lucky he is that it wasn't worse. "I could have been dead.”