Living on edge | 

Pogues star Shane MacGowan’s wife Victoria says she’s ‘terrified’ at thought of losing husband

MacGowan has been treated for viral encephalitis — an uncommon and serious condition in which the brain becomes swollen

Niamh HoranSunday Independent

Shane MacGowan’s wife Victoria Mary Clarke is “terrified” at the thought of losing her husband, after the singer’s hospitalisation last week.

Victoria said of the Pogues frontman: “I was absolutely terrified. You don’t know what is going to happen, do you? You just don’t know.”

MacGowan, who is due to celebrate his 65th birthday on Christmas Day, has been treated for viral encephalitis — an uncommon and serious condition in which the brain becomes swollen. Just over a week ago he contracted shingles and the infection spread to his eye, leading Victoria to call for help.

“I noticed it on his face. His eye was getting red and began to close over. I called the doctor and the doctor said it was very dangerous so we had to get him to the hospital straight away,” she said.

Further tests confirmed encephalitis, which when left untreated can lead to death in one in 10 patients. Survivors of severe cases can also be left with permanent problems such as seizures, hearing loss and blindness.

“The hospital explained to me that shingles can go into your brain and that’s what happened to Shane so now they want to keep him in on a drip for two weeks,” Victoria said.

MacGowan was “confused” beginning his treatment but is “lucid” this weekend and will be home in time to celebrate his birthday.

“He seems perfectly normal now — he is pissed off because he can’t have a drink in the hospital,” Victoria said.

While keeping a vigil at her husband’s bedside Victoria described how she lives in fear of losing Shane.

“I have been thinking about it for such a long time that it sort of comes in waves — when something happens to him then I freak out. He has been living on the edge since he was a teenager. People have been warning him that he was going to die since he was a teenager.”

The journalist has made several attempts to encourage the singer to ditch his hard-living lifestyle and though there have been signs of hope, it has been to no avail.

“You are really annoyed with them because you just want them to look after themselves. But you can’t make anyone look after themselves. I don’t know why, but it’s true. You feel if they would just take more vitamin C and eat more green foods, they could be healthier.

“I am pretty obsessed with my health so it makes me even more annoyed because I know there are all these simple things you can do. I have spent years and years trying to get him to eat healthier and at one point not too long ago, only about three or four weeks ago, he started watching meditation videos on YouTube.

“He has been watching Deepak Chopra and he stopped drinking for three weeks on his own volition so I felt really hopeful. He is only 64, he is going to be 65 on Christmas Day so he is young.”

For years doctors have warned MacGowan his lifestyle could lead him to an early grave.

“About 30 years ago a doctor in London told him he would be dead within six months. Now the doctor is dead and Shane is not. And then the next doctor [that gave Shane the same prognosis] also died. So you just don’t know who is next,” she said.

On what has made the singer defy medics, she said: “It’s probably a combination of his very determined mindset, a strong will and a strong spirit. And also I can’t say that it’s nothing to do with his religion because it could well be because he prays so much. So I think he is probably bringing himself a lot of good energy by doing that.”

The singer will now spend Christmas Day in his south Dublin home with Victoria and a small group of friends. But despite writing one of the greatest Christmas songs of all time, Victoria says The Pogues frontman doesn’t enjoy the festive season.

“Shane isn’t that into Christmas, believe it or not. He is quite religious so he thinks people should pay more attention to Jesus and less to the presents.”

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