Illnesses and Accidents:
A weird topic, but something I’ve been asked about several times. This is not a total list but the main things for which details have been released publicly.
“I had suddenly lost all of my strength, and even getting out of bed was an effort. When I finally went to the doctor, he told me that I had hepatitis. Ironically, it wasn’t the type you get from needles, it was the type you get from eating bad shellfish. After a week in bed, I was pretty good to go.”
Scar Tissue; page 130.
1992: Dengue Fever
In 1992, Anthony travelled to the island of Borneo with Henk Schiffmacher, aka Hanky Panky, a famous Dutch tattoo artist (he did e.g. Anthony’s back tattoo), to search out primitive tattooing techniques and to copy the crossing of the Borneo rainforest by a nineteenth century Dutch explorer.
The trip turned out to be a disaster leaving Anthony suffering from Dengue Fever. Schiffmacher recorded the experience in his book, “De grote expeditie Borneo” (no English translation) but AK also discusses it in Scar Tissue (pages 303-308) and here:
Everyone got brutally ill. At night, we would sleep in these incredibly uncomfortable, wet, seething-with-jungle-life conditions. The first night in the jungle, we weren’t using our mosquito netting, and I woke up with this incredibly painful buzzing and humming inside my brain. I woke up Hank and said, “Please, look in my ear, my head is vibrating, and I’m going insane.” He’s got this flashlight, and he’s looking in my ear: “No, I see nothing, I see nothing.” And then he drops the flashlight and screams, and I feel this animal crawl out of my ear. He said it looked like an oversize jungle roach that had somehow collapsed its body and worked its way into my ear canal and gotten stuck.
…So I wasn’t having the greatest time. And halfway through, we got lost in these mountains in the middle of Borneo. And when you’re a white guy from California, and you’ve run out of food, and you can’t fluidly communicate with your guides, it becomes a source of concern… We were lost for a week. I finally get back to L.A., and it turns out that I’m stricken with dengue fever. It’s a very rare fever – like a distant cousin of malaria – and I had to go into the hospital for a week.
Rolling Stone 1994
15th May 2016: Intestinal Flu/ Blocked Stomach
Anthony was rushed to hospital just before RHCP were about to take to the stage for the KROQ Weenie Roast with an initially unknown stomach complaint which was then described as intestinal flu. He had a brief stay in hospital but no operation was needed. More details came out in following interviews:
ET Canada: Are you comfortable telling us what happened or no?
Anthony Kiedis: Yeah. Basically I had inflammation in my guts. I had a stomach virus a few weeks ago and I’ve had operations on hernias from singing and…
ET Canada: Oh, really?
Anthony Kiedis: Yeah, coz I sing loud and dance and sometimes you rip your stomach open. So the scar tissue, the flu virus conspired to create an impassable inflammation so nothing I was eating was getting past the stomach and that becomes an incredibly painful situation where you get a fever and pass out. So I had to be pumped clean in the hospital and lo and behold, I’m on the mend. But it’s a process.
1977? Back Injury
Anthony and Flea began jumping into swimming pools from buildings for fun. On one attempt, Anthony misjudged missing the water and smacked into the surrounding concrete of the pool instead:
Mike was my constant companion. On those long walks, we’d pass all of these one-, two-, three-, and sometimes four- and five-story apartment buildings that were built around a central pool. One day an amazing idea was triggered. I looked at the building and said, “That’s a diving board, my friend.”
…One day in June of that year, Mike and I had been eyeing this apartment building just down the block from my house. The pool was small and teardrop-shaped, and the deep end was the smallest section of the teardrop… I told Mike to go, and he jumped, and I heard the splash… I jumped, and as I was in the air, I realized that I had put too much into the leap and I was going to overshoot the pool, but there was nothing I could do about it. The concrete was coming up at me, and I landed smack on my heels and missed the pool by about ten inches.
…Somebody called an ambulance, and the paramedics clumsily rolled me onto a gurney, almost dropping me in the process. They didn’t stabilize the stretcher in the back of the ambulance, so I was bumping around in agony the whole ride to the hospital. It was pain and shock and horror, and I knew something was seriously wrong, be-cause I still couldn’t move. They took me to Cedars Sinai and did an X ray, and after a while, the doctor came into the room and said, “You broke your back, and it doesn’t look so good.” … At last they got me medicated, and rigged up a pulley system with a harness and a medical bustier girdle. I was told that my vertebrae were flattened like pancakes and that a month in traction would help stretch them back.
Scar Tissue; pages 67-6
1984* Car Crash
*In the context of the narrative of Scar Tissue, Anthony Kiedis discusses the album being released just before details of the crash and afterwards he mentions that they were due to play CJM (CMJ New Music Seminar, Irving Plaza) which was on August 4th 1984.
Anthony had an accident in his mother’s car while staying with her in Michigan during the summer holidays. He had gone to a bar, got drunk and then decided to drive home anyway:
So I put the pedal to the metal on my mom’s Subaru station wagon, which probably put me between eighty and ninety miles an hour. I was getting really tired, and I’d start to nod off and then jerk up sharply. I did this a few times, and then I decided that I was just going to close my eyes for a second. There was so much booze in me that my lights went out.
I blacked out, and the car veered into the oncoming lane, jumped the edge of the road, and hit a bump, at which point I woke up and saw a huge clump of trees in front of me. “Trees? What the . . .” Boom—the car accordioned into an elm tree face-on, and the engine was now next to me in the driver’s seat, and the steering wheel had broken on impact with my face. I would have stayed there, unconscious and bleeding, for who knows how long if not for the fact that off in the distance, a person had heard the crash. By luck, that person was a paramedic who happened to have his ambulance in the driveway.
Within a matter of minutes, he had called some firemen, and they came and got the jaws of life and pried me out of the car. The paramedics were hovering over me, asking me who the president was. I answered each question perfectly, though I couldn’t understand why they were testing me for brain damage. I didn’t realize that my entire head had split wide open and I resembled a plate of spaghetti and meatballs.
I was rushed to the nearest hospital, and my poor mom was notified. She was home helping her husband, Steve, recover from his recent quadruple bypass surgery. But within minutes, my mother and my sister, Jenny, came marching into the operating room. They looked at me like a ghost. I asked if I could use the bathroom, and the nurses reluctantly let me. I went straight for the mirror, and looking back at me was the Elephant Man. My upper lip was so fat that it actually covered my nose. My nose looked like a bowl of cauliflower splayed across my whole face. My left eye was completely shut, but it looked like it had swallowed a pool ball before it closed. And there was blood everywhere. I instantly thought, “Oh my God, I will never look like a human being again.” I could see out of only one eye, but I saw enough to know that was the end of my face as I knew it.
… After a few days, the swelling went down, and they repaired the broken bones. I had a broken skull, a broken eye socket, and a shattered orbital floor, which is the wafer-thin bone that supports your eyeball. The plastic surgeon had to work from a photo that my mom supplied, but with a little titanium and a little Teflon, he got me back to a reasonable facsimile of myself.
Scar Tissue; pages 148-150
1997 Motorbike Accident
Dates on the 1997 RHCP tour had to be cancelled after Anthony’s arm was badly injured in a motorbike accident resulting in 5 hour reconstructive surgery and a special cast:
In a split hair of a moment, this car pulled out of a parking spot and started to make a U-turn, effectively cutting off the entire street. Normally, you’d have a back-door exit, even if it meant cutting onto the sidewalk, but now there was no way out; this idiot had blocked the whole street, and there were no driveways accessible. I used both my brakes, but the car was too close. There was an incredibly fast and violent collision, so strong that the bike pierced the vehicle. I flew off the bike and jackknifed right into the point where the driver’s door met the engine compartment.
Amazingly enough, I hit the car and proceeded to somersault forward, landing square on my feet on the other side of the car. I kept my balance and started running, so I assumed that by some miracle, I was okay. Except when I looked down at my arm, it wasn’t an arm anymore. My hand had been shoved up into my fore-arm, so I now had a double-decker, big, bulbous club of a forearm and no hand.
“Oh my God,” I thought. “This is really, really wrong-looking.”
…There was no time to call for help, so I turned round and ran back outside and flagged down a convertible that happened to be occupied by two women I knew who were on their way to the same meeting as I had been… Within five minutes, I was at the hospital, being wheeled into emergency surgery. Just my luck, an amazing hand specialist, Dr. Kulber, was on duty.
Source: Q Magazine November 1997 (issue 134)
It took Dr. Kulber five hours to reconstruct my hand from that pulverized mass of bone and matter. After a few days in the hospital, they fixed me up with a specialty cast that went all the way up to my shoulder. It wasn’t until I got home that I recognized how dependent we are on our hands. Even something as mundane as wiping your ass became a big issue. I had to train my left hand to do things it had never done before. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t open a door or a window; getting dressed and tying my shoes were nearly impossible.
Scar Tissue; pages 382-383
2012 Foot Operation
In January 2012, the Chili Peppers announced that they were going to have to postpone the U.S. leg of their ‘I’m with You‘ tour due to multiple foot injuries suffered by Kiedis. Kiedis had surgery during which a crushed sesamoid bone was removed and a detached flexor tendon repaired.
Kiedis was seen many times after the operation wearing using crutches and then wearing a special foot brace.
2020 August: Foot Injury
Anthony hurt his foot while playing sport and suffered torn ligaments. He was seen wearing a foot brace while on the annual family holiday in Michigan.
As a keen surfer, Anthony has suffered numerous minor accidents while surfing e.g.
A minor injury from surfing while in New Zealand:
But getting my pubic bone separated by a giant rock was a whole new level of pain and discomfort that could really mess up the first couple of shows on the tour. I literally got rolled over the rocks and probably did ten flips bouncing off the rocks which were covered in mussels. Like the worst kind of car crash over reef that you could imagine, and for a moment there I wasn’t even going to take my board, as I stood up and realised that my pubic patch was full of blood and my suit was torn, my head was bleeding…
N Z Surf Magazine 2013
Another ‘minor’ surfing injury.
Photo Credit: David Mushegain; official RHCP Instagram
Show Related Injuries:
Kiedis rubs his torso reflectively. “The sign of a good show is usually injury, which I got last night, a bruise on the rib from freaking out in the middle of a song. So it’s beautiful and I feel completely fortunate and lucky to be able to do this with my life, but it’s also a small mobile torture chamber.”
Vox April 1992
There have been a number of show related injuries for Anthony e.g.
“That night was the beginning of my ongoing battle with tinnitus. Chad and I both came offstage* and hugged backstage and realised that our ears were perceptibly ringing. By the end of that tour, I’d have permanent ear damage, which, unfortunately, is one of the hardest things to cure.”
Scar Tissue; page 288 (*After playing Del Mar with Nirvana; December 1991
1996 Pittsburg: Leg Injury
In March 1996, Kiedis fell off stage during a concert at Pittsburg after tripping over a monitor; he hit the concrete floor and initially thought he had just a head injury as he’d blacked out but then released he’d badly damaged his leg:
I went plummeting right the stage and dropped eight feet, hit my head on the concrete floor, and passed out. I came right to and was grateful to be conscious, but my head was the least of my problems. Before I tripped, leg had gotten tangled up in my mike cord, so when I fell, the cord acted like a hangman’s noose and ripped my calf muscle right off the bone. I was hanging upside down thinking I could deal with the head injury, but when I pushed myself back up onstage, my leg wouldn’t work. I finished the show on one leg and went to hospital. I got some stitches in my head, but my leg had become black and blue and green and wildly disfigured-looking. They rigged me up with a Frankenfoot-looking cast complete with vast array of straps. I had to finish the rest of the tour with this Frankenfoot, which was not fun to perform in.
Scar Tissue; page 355
1996 Prague: Back Injury
In June of the same year, Anthony suffered a further accident which resulted in a back injury:
“But as I sit here on the phone with you right now, I feel like I have a broken back and as soon as I hang up, I’m going to get a dose of acupuncture. Last night we played in Prague, a sold-out indoor show, and the kids were just intense. The audience was so intense that we had to give it everything we had.
“And somewhere, performing ‘One Big Mob,’ I think I landed upside down on my back, on a monitor or something. And I became paralyzed with pain. We managed to finish the show, but I take a beating. I take a total beating.
Goldmine November 1996
Anthony describes how he developed shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome caused by exercise such as running, jumping or dancing), before Australia’s Big Day Out (January 2000):
“The only downside to this was my shin splints. Even with the week off, the pain would not subside. My shinbones were getting hairline fractures because my muscles and tendons were so swollen, they were pulling off the bone mass.”
Scar Tissue; page 432.
2016-7 The Getaway Tour Injuries
Photo Credit: David Mushegain; official RHCP Instagram; May 2017
Anthony suffered a number of leg related injuries during The Getaway tour. He had an operation and wore a knee brace for a number of concerts:
I also broke my knee in two places. By jumping on stage, I fell back on my knee. I can not kneel since. We have a three-week break in August and the doctors will take the opportunity to fix it.
Source: Journal De Montreal (Jul7 2016)
Later in the tour, he also tore a tendon:
I’m always getting banged up, and hurt, and repairing, and recovering, and hurting, and it’s just normal,” the rocker tells ET Canada at the band’s concert in Toronto. “At the moment, I have a torn tendon in my ankle from spinning around night after night, but it’ll heal.
Note: ‘Scar Tissue’ by Anthony Kiedis with Larry Sloman (page references correct according to my edition)