When Ozzy Osbourne took a fall in January, he thought he broke his neck. “I came down really, really hard,” he tells Rolling Stone from his Los Angeles home. “I went slam — on my face.” He had gotten up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and tripped in the dark. His wife, Sharon, took him to the hospital, where he’d spend the next two months recovering from neck surgery.
Just a few months earlier, Osbourne was flying high again — playing dates on his No More Tours 2 Tour, a trek he has billed as his last big world tour — but starting last October, “everything I touch has turned to shit,” as he put it in a statement to the press. He got surgery on his right hand after contracting a potentially deadly staph infection, forcing him to postpone several gigs. He contracted the flu, which turned into pneumonia and put him in the ICU, leading to more postponements. And then he had his fall, dislodging some of the metal rods doctors had put in his body after his near-fatal 2003 quad-bike accident. The surgery made him reschedule all of his 2019 dates for next year and he’s been recovering slowly ever since.
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“For the first, say, four months, I was absolutely in agony,” he says. “I was in agony beyond anything I ever experienced before in my life. It was awful. I’m taking physical and occupational therapy classes, but the progress is very slow. They say it’s going to take at least a year. I’m hoping that I’ll be OK and ready to go by January [when the tour resumes]. I’m really keeping my fingers crossed.”
The hardest part, for Osbourne, was the neck surgery. After the quad-bike accident, he broke eight ribs, his left collarbone and a vertebra, but he was able to recover. “I thought I’d cheated death once again,” he says now. But the injury impeded the way the fluid would go down his spinal cord. “I was getting a strange feeling sometimes, like nerve pain going down my arms,” he says. “I used to think it was wear-and-tear from being on the road and didn’t give it a second thought.” The tumble this year made it all worse, forcing him to get the surgery on his spine and neck.
“When they do surgery on your neck, they cut through all the nerves, and it fucked everything up,” he says. “So I’m wobbling all over the place. And since they cut through the nerves, my right arm feels permanently cold.” He likens the sensation to when he would play in the snow as a kid and then warm his hands up too fast: “You’d get a warm feeling in your hands. I wake up with it, and I go to bed with it.” The doctors gave him medicine for nerve pain, which blew his mind. “I’d never heard of anyone needing nerve-pain medication,” he says.
The time he spent in the hospital was especially rough for him. “I cannot describe to you the helpless feeling that I had,” he says. “I had to use [a walker] to go for a pee. I had to have nurses, day and night. Just being in hospital is enough to drive you nuts. I thank God I didn’t paralyze myself when I had that accident. I wouldn’t be here now. I would have jumped off the fucking roof — or fell off the roof, whatever.”
Despite numerous recovery exercises, including walking backwards and forwards, practicing his balance, and working with occupational therapists, he feels like his progress is slow. “It’s kind of boring to be honest with you,” he says. “I’m used to getting up, getting on my elliptical and going for an hour or so and breaking a sweat. But I can’t do it. One day, I was doing an hour or two on the elliptical; now I can do just barely half an hour. I go out with a walking stick, and I walk up the road and I’m bushed.” To make matters worse, he’s developed blood clots in his legs — “I don’t know where they came from,” he says — and he’s on blood thinners. “The nurse told me, I have to be careful if I bang myself, because there’s a blood clot and all that shit,” he says. “It’s scary stuff … From 40 [years old] to 70 was OK and suddenly you get to 70 and everything caved in on me.”
Asked what’s been giving him hope, he gives a big laugh and says, “Not that much.” “I don’t like it when I’m in bed for more than a day, and it’s been six months,” he says. “So you can imagine what my fucking head feels like now.” But he has been keeping occupied, watching lots of TV (“I like documentaries, and I’m becoming a UFO freak,” he says) and his wife and daughters have been taking care of him. “It’s times like these when families are important, I suppose,” he muses.
Bandmates past and present have all shown their support, with Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi sending texts like, “Come on, you can do it.” Korn frontman Jonathan Davis has also been cheering him up. “He’s been really supportive, and I was so pleasantly surprised with that,” he says. “It’s great.”
He’s recorded about nine song ideas – he jokes that his new album will be called Recuperation – to keep him occupied and distracted. “The most depressing thing I’ve been thinking is, ‘Am I gonna walk properly again? Am I gonna be able to perform again?'” he says. “I thought, ‘Well, if I just lay there watching fucking World at War again, I’m not gonna fucking do anything. So do what you can, even if it’s a little, just so you’re doing stuff … I don’t think I can do a rock concert right now. I’ll go, ‘Hello,’ and that’s it.”
All he can do now is be optimistic about his continued recovery so he can make his first gig next year. “The progress is so fucking slow,” he says. “It’s like, come on. My date is January, I hope to fucking God, ’cause I’m gonna go fucking nuts. We’re just keeping our fingers crossed.” He pauses and a metaphor comes to him. “It’s like making a sculpture,” he says. “You chip away at it and it turns into this thing. You have to resculpture your life again.”
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