‘I thought I was gone’: Jimmy Barnes opens up about his terrifying brush with death

Feb 19, 2024
At one point, lying in hospital, Barnes, visibly unwell, confided in his wife Jane, saying, "I don't think I'm gonna make it". Source: Getty Images.

Australian rock icon Jimmy Barnes has disclosed the harrowing details of his recent health battle, including moments when he feared he might not survive.

Barnes was hospitalised in late November last year due to bacterial pneumonia. Later he shocked fans with the revelation that he was set to undergo open-heart surgery after the infection spread.

Now, in an emotional interview with 60 Minutes, Barnes has opened up about the profound fear he felt while extremely unwell at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital.

At one point, lying in hospital, Barnes, visibly unwell, confided in his wife Jane, saying, “I don’t think I’m gonna make it”.

The gravity of the situation loomed large as he grappled with a sense of mortality he had never felt before.

“I just had this horrible morbid feeling because I’ve never felt this sick before. I thought I was gone,” he added.

The health scare unfolded hours before Barnes was set to take the stage at a memorial concert for his late friend and promoter, Michael Gudinski. Despite being seriously ill, Barnes pushed through, barely remembering the performance that would become a testament to his unwavering commitment to his craft.

“I was really bad. And even though I felt like I could hardly walk, I just had to get there,” he said.

Backstage, he battled with a fever and excruciating pain, struggling to complete the show.

“There was a lot of pain. My back was really sore … I was struggling to walk. I don’t know how I got through it,” Barnes said.

“As soon as I came off, I sort of virtually collapsed.”

The turning point came when he made the crucial decision to prioritise his health and head to St Vincent’s. Reflecting on the moment, he revealed, “I got out of bed and I was in so much pain. I was wheezing, I had a fever (and I thought) I just can’t do it.”

Upon reaching the hospital, Barnes faced the shocking reality that his life hung in the balance. Doctors informed him that, by the time he was wheeled into the operating theatre for open-heart surgery, he had just hours to live.

“When I contemplated dying before surgery, I just thought, ‘You have to savour those moments; have I told my children that I love ’em enough? Have I told Jane?’ The people you love, make sure you tell ’em,” Barnes said.

The subsequent seven-hour surgery was a grueling test of endurance. Physicians replaced damaged valves and repaired his heart, but the aftermath was no less painful. Barnes described waking up post-surgery as feeling like he had been “ripped in half.”

“Your best friend is a pillow. If you cough, it’s just agony. If you breathe too deep, it’s agony. And sneezing would be the end of you,” he recalled.

“But I think it’s made me stronger. I want to be better than I was. I’ve got all this new life from this and I want to make the best of it. I want every minute to count.”

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