Former England footballer Gascoigne: I thought I was dead

Reuters, Sunday 10 Mar 2013

Gascoigne thought he was dead during U.S. rehab treatment

Paul Gascoigne (Photo: Reuters)

Former England footballer Paul Gascoigne said he thought he was going to die last month while he was being treated for alcoholism in the United States.

The 45-year-old said he heard three doctors saying they did not think he was going to pull through before he slipped into a coma that lasted for three days.

"I thought I was on my way out. It has got to inspire me to never let this happen again. I've come through that - death. I was dead," Gascoigne said in an interview in The Sun on Sunday.

Gascoigne, who began his career at Newcastle United before spells with Tottenham Hotspur, Lazio, Rangers and Everton, is back in England after a month in the Cottonwood Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona where he was treated for his illness, which, he said, he was convinced was going to kill him.

In the interview he recalls saying to doctors: "Please save my life - I don't want to die," and said when he came around at one stage he heard them talking and heard them agreeing with one who said: "I don't think this guy is going to make it."

He added: "I thought I was on my way out at that split second. Handcuffed, I looked like a corpse. I was a total wreck."

He said the doctors strapped his ankles, knees and chest and tied his hands to the bed.

"The medics who have spent their careers treating alcoholics said my detox was the worst they had ever seen," he said.

"The reason I was tied to the bed was I had tubes in either arm, and those tubes could not come out.

"I was getting constantly injected around my heart and around the lung. I knew that. I've had quite a few chances in my life but I am so grateful to be alive.

"I was pumped with more drugs than any other patient. I was out cold for three days. It was unbelievable looking down and wondering how this had happened to me."

Gascoigne has battled alcoholism for years and said his latest problems started in Dubai last summer when he started drinking again after 17 months "dry".

He said he followed that by staying off alcohol for the following six months, but his own despair at his lapse meant that he failed to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and isolated himself, barely eating.

"I was living like a dry drunk," he said.                                                                        

Eventually, he started drinking heavily again before breaking down sobbing on stage at a charity event in Northampton in January.

Gascoigne, for many the most naturally gifted footballer of his generation, first ran into drink-related problems in 1998, shortly after his divorce from wife Sheryl.

Three years later, while at Everton, Gascoigne admitted himself to an alcohol rehabilitation clinic in Arizona on the insistence of his then manager Walter Smith.

In 2008, four years after retiring, he was arrested in Newcastle and later detained under the Mental Health Act.

Gascoigne said he would begin attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings again. "I should be dead. The doctors said I would not make it. But I'm here, I have another chance - and I'm going to take it."

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