For decades, Keith Richards topped the list of “Rockers most likely to die this year” But the Rolling Stones guitarist never looked so closely at the Grim Reaper as in 2006, when he had a accident in Fiji and had to undergo emergency surgery due to an intracerebral hematoma that almost cost him his life.
The story is recurring, familiar and told with grace (and with many errors). It is repeated that he fell from a palm tree under the influence of some substance but the reality is that I was resting on a branch with his friend Ron Wood by his side and waiting for their respective wives to finish packing a picnic on the private island they had rented.
“Ronnie and I went for a swim in the sea and, when we left, he lay down in a hammock and I did it on the horizontal branch of a little tree; When I heard ‘to eat’ I had the intention of grabbing onto another branch and I let myself fall gently ”, he began his story in“ Vida ”, his award-winning autobiography published in 2010.“ I forgot that my hands were wet and full of sand; I slipped, fell on my heels and my head went back and hit the tree trunk. Lasted”.
Richards said that at the time he did not notice anything strange but that two days later, in the middle of a boat excursion, a wave knocked him against a seat and he felt that something was wrong. “With the blow from the branch I fractured my skull, and it could have gone on like this for months until they found out or killed me; The second blow made it clear that there was a problem ”. That night, Richards took a couple of aspirin for his headache and made his condition worse by liquefying his blood.
After waking up with a coughing fit, his wife Pattie set off and transferred him to a hospital on the island, where they told her that they had to refer him to New Zealand due to the severity of the blow. “That was the worst flight of my life because they put a straitjacket on me and tied me to a stretcher, ”he recalled.
In New Zealand he was treated by the neurosurgeon Andre Law – “Luckily he was a fan of mine” – who for fifteen days not only operated on him to remove the clot (after the guitarist refused a new transfer to more prepared hospitals in New York) but also performed all the checkups until save his life. The Stones would end up adding the doctor to their roster of permanent employees and Richards she welcomed him into her family as one more member.
At the time of the accident, the band was immersed in the tour A Bigger Bang -which had passed through Argentina at the end of February of that year- and although the promoters and insurers certified that Richards was to rest for six months, he made sure his operation did not interfere with the dynamics of the band. Six weeks later I was onstage in Milan. “It was what I needed, it was ready.”