Weeks after canceling the final dates of a concert tour due to an unspecified health scare, the Monkees’ Michael “Mike” Nesmith has revealed that he has undergone quadruple bypass heart surgery.
The precise details of Nesmith’s health woes have been scarce since he entered the hospital just before a scheduled gig with fellow Monkee Micky Dolenz in Glenside, Pennsylvania, but the 75-year-old opened up to Rolling Stone‘s Andy Greene about his road to recovery.
“I was getting weaker and weaker and I couldn’t get my breath,” he says of the days leading up to the procedure. “When we got to Lake Tahoe and then the high altitude of Denver, I couldn’t get out of bed and I couldn’t breathe. It wasn’t agonizing. It was just the business of wanting to take a big, deep breath and not being able to do it.”
For some dates he got by with an oxygen tank and a mask located just off stage, but two brief trips to the emergency room in the same week gave him some indication of how serious the situation had become. Just before the concert in Pennsylvania, Nesmith knew he needed medical help.
“I didn’t collapse to the ground or anything like that, but I couldn’t breathe,” he recalled. “So I sat down until I got my breath and then I realized the breath wasn’t gettable. That marked the end. People knew I couldn’t keep on like this. It was a road to hell.”
He immediately flew to his home in Carmel, California, to meet with his cardiologist. The operation was performed a short time later, followed by 10 days spent hospitalized.
“I was using the words ‘heart attack’ for a while,” he explains of his ailment. “But I’m told now that I didn’t have one. It was congestive heart failure. It has taken me four weeks to climb out of it.”
Now, a month later, he reckons he’s “back to 80 percent” and eyeing a brief tour with his own group, the First National Band, kicking off Sept. 7 in Texas. “I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” he says. “My thinking is clear and I know who I am and where I am. It all feels like a natural healing process.”