I felt a terrible pain, like an elephant on my chest… I just hoped I’d live: Status Quo legend Rick Parfitt on the heart attack that nearly killed him
Rick Parfitt has told how he came an ‘inch away from dying’ of a heart attack that has convinced him to finally tame his hard-living ways.
The Status Quo guitarist, 65, was still drinking a bottle of wine a day and smoking 30 cigarettes, despite a long line of serious health scares.
But it was not until he suffered his second heart attack three weeks ago that the father of two young twins finally received the wake-up call he needed to give up alcohol and cigarettes.
‘I’ve made a pact with myself,’ he said. ‘That part of my life is over as I do not want to die, I want to live.’
Speaking for the first time about the ordeal, Parfitt described how he was lying alone in the cabin of his luxury tour bus near the Croatian city of Pula when he felt the first telltale pains in his chest.
It had been less than eight hours since the multimillionaire had finished a sell-out gig in Austria and in that time he had drunk a bottle of wine and smoked ten cigarettes.
‘I was an inch away from dying,’ he said. ‘I remember the bus stopping at about 4.30am in the middle of nowhere and I started to feel very ill.
.‘I felt a terrible pain, in my chest and down both arms and across my shoulders. I didn’t know if it was a heart attack or not but I suspected it was. It felt like an elephant starting to sit on your chest.
‘You don’t know whether you’re going to die or not. You lay there in incredible pain not knowing what to do with yourself. There’s no relief, you just hope you don’t die, because I was lying there dying I guess.’ Parfitt – who had a quadruple heart bypass in 1997, a throat cancer scare in 2005 and his first heart attack in 2011 – managed to wake up his personal assistant Paul Ashcroft, who called an ambulance.
The musician, who along with Francis Rossi helped found the hugely successful British rock band 47 years ago, was taken to a local hospital before being flown back to the UK in a private jet for emergency surgery. While on the operating table, he had another heart attack.
It meant Status Quo, who have had a string of hits including Rockin’ All Over The World and opened the Live Aid concert in 1985, were forced to cancel a number of gigs across Europe.
Parfitt, who lives in Marbella with his third wife Lyndsay, 54, and six-year-old twins Lily and Tommy, said: ‘I’ve had 50 years of smoking and drinking and abusing my body.
‘There comes a time when you have to look at yourself and think, “Right, that’s it, it’s now time for a change”. All my life I’ve defied the doctor’s orders, thinking that I’m made of steel.
‘But as stupid as this may sound, I’m pleased I’ve had this heart attack because I couldn’t see a way out of my bad habits.’ Parfitt enjoyed a hedonistic lifestyle throughout most of his years as a rock star – at one point spending £1,000 a week on cocaine and drinking at least a bottle of vodka a day.
He stopped taking drugs 11 years ago but continued to smoke and drink heavily, even after having a stent fitted three years ago.
He was released from hospital four days after falling ill on August 2 and was due to perform a few days later. But at the insistence of his doctor, Parfitt pulled out of the gig.
Speaking from a boutique hotel in Kingston, Surrey, he said: ‘It was the first time ever that I’ve missed a gig and it was a very odd feeling because even though I wasn’t there, I lived the gig in my mind.’
Parfitt has now abstained from alcohol or cigarettes for three weeks – the longest time since the age of 15 – and he says he has never felt better.
‘There are so many advantages I never realised to being sober,’ he added. ‘When I wake up in the morning I want to get up and get the day going and I can’t tell you how much better I feel.
‘My wife has been begging me to sort myself out, telling me “You’re going to die if you don’t stop”. I realise now for the first time in my life that if I carry on I will die. I don’t regret the things I’ve done but I look back and it’s incredibly frightening the way I’ve lived my life.
‘In the light of sobriety now, sitting at home in Spain with my feet up out on the terrace on lovely warm evenings, thinking, “God, you just didn’t realise”.’
‘I’ve always loved the fun side of life and had a good sense of humour and the fact you don’t drink doesn’t separate you from your natural sense of humour.’
The musician, who is performing tonight with Status Quo in Norfolk, added: ‘I’m going to enjoy my life so much more now. I’m ready to rock, I can’t wait.’
Status Quo tour the UK in December. Tickets are on sale from LiveNation.
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