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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Exlusive: Amy Winehouse has emphysema and could be in wheelchair

Frail Amy Winehouse has been struck down by the deadly lung condition emphysema - and she could be in a wheelchair within a MONTH if she doesn't stop smoking crack cocaine, her dad revealed last night.

Doctors have also told the star, 24 - rushed to hospital after having a fit this week - that she will need a permanent oxygen mask to survive unless she takes their advice.

In an emotional interview, her devastated father Mitch told the Sunday Mirror how watching his daughter deteriorate reminded him of his own 78-year-old mother struggling for breath on an aspirator before she died of lung cancer.

Worried dad Mitch said: "To think this could be my beautiful 24-year-old daughter's life is preposterous. But if drugs mean more to her than breathing properly, then so be it. But the doctors have told her if she goes back to smoking drugs it won't just ruin her voice, it will kill her. It's been a tough week."

Mitch also told of his fears as Amy underwent tests after a mystery lump was found on her chest during scans at private London hospital The Clinic.

He said: "After lots of tests they found a lump in Amy's chest. A scan has shown it's not cancerous and there are no traces of cancer in her blood. But they might need to double check.

"There is a chance she might need a biopsy. If they need to cut the lump out then that will mean a massive and painful operation and a lot of recuperation.

At the moment that doesn't look likely.

"When they told me she had a lump, I was very, very worried. At times Amy seems nervous about it but she doesn't panic until something's 100 per cent."

Ex-cabbie Mitch revealed how he recognised "warning signs" that Amy would have a seizure after noticing her eyes were squinting at a family lunch last Sunday. Then at 4pm on Monday, he rushed the troubled star to hospital in the back of his cab after she collapsed in a fit at her home in Camden, North London. She has suffered two seizures in the past year, including one last August when she was hospitalised after a huge drugs binge.

Mitch added: "When I saw her last Sunday lunch at her favourite Spanish bar in Camden she was just picking at her tapas and salad. Her eyes kept on squinting and flickering and I said to her then how that had happened the last time she had a seizure. I even called her manager Ray to tell him. Amy just brushed it off and said she had a headache.

But the next day she collapsed. I got a call when I was out for lunch. An ambulance came but she sent it away.

"But she wanted to go to hospital this time and she could walk so I put her in the back of the cab. She didn't talk much and I could see her in the mirror falling asleep.

"When we got to the hospital a room was ready. Several doctors came in and checked to make sure she didn't need any emergency treatment. They operaput her on a drip straight away because she was dehydrated. She said, 'Don't worry about me, Dad. I know I've got to stop taking drugs now'. At the hospital we found she'd been awake for 48 hours. We can only speculate she'd been taking drugs all that time. She curled up in bed and went to sleep. In between tests, she slept for almost three days solid."

The lung-damage caused by emphysema is irreversible and can lead some sufferers to become dependent on oxygen supplies. Skeletal Amy was also suffering from irregular heartbeats when admitted.

Terrified she risks losing her life, she has now vowed to stay clean and started a drug replacement programme on Tuesday. Mitch said: "The doctors have said that if she had continued the way she was going she could have ended up an invalid - she wouldn't have been able to breathe.

"She's got emphysema. Iit's in its early stages, but had it gone on for another month they painted a very vivid picture of her sitting there like an old person with a mask on her face struggling to breathe.

"With smoking the crack cocaine and the cigarettes her lungs are all gunked up. There are nodules around the chest and dark marks. She's got 70 per cent lung capacity."

Amy's plight has brought back painful memories for Mitch of the way his mum died. Cynthia Winehouse, a singer who dated jazz legend Ronnie Scott, was on a aspirator before she died in 2006.

Amy idolised Cynthia, and has her name tattooed on her right arm.

Mitch added: "Amy's now had every scan in the book - for her brain, on her lungs, her heart. She's having tests every day to monitor her heart rate. When she went into hospital she had irregular heartbeats. I was messing around and picked up a stethoscope and listened to her chest myself. It was all over the place. But they've now sorted that out with medication.

That was likely to have been the drugs. But one step back, and it could be fatal."

Mitch is now terrified that Amy - who is being watched by a nurse 24 hours a day and is expected to be in hospital for another week - will discharge herself as soon as she feels better and will fall straight back into her old ways. He has called for Amy's drug dealers and circle of drug addict pals included troubled rocker

Pete Doherty - to stay away from her. He said: "I'm saying to those drug dealers, and they know who they are, if they are supplying crack to Amy, then they've got to take responsibility. I don't want her hanging out with her mates like Pete Doherty either.

"What hope does she have if people are taking drugs around her? Already Amy says she feels better and wants to leave hospital and that worries me.

She says she's bored so I've got a whole shopping list of things... sweets, chocolates, puzzle books, nighties." Mitch say Amy, who has a history of bulimia, has been eating well for the first time in years. He revealed: "She's been eating like a horse. I've been amazed.

For lunch she ordered a baked potato with tuna, cheese, beans, salad and soup. She gobbled it all down and then ate mine. So she's going in the right direction.

"But she feels she's ready to go out, and she's not. She's put on weight, her skin is clear, she's lucid, she's my beautiful Amy. But in the back of that cab I could see she was worried and frightened. It's up to her, if she wants to die in three months then she leaves and goes back to drugs. Hopefully this time she won't."

Mitch has visited Amy's husband Blake Fielder-Civil three times in jail, where he is awaiting sentence after pleading guilty to GBH and conspiring to pervert justice.

Blake, 26, is calling Amy every day "to help her stay strong".

Mitch said: "Blake apologised to me for getting Amy into drugs and says he's going to try and put it right. Blake was clean when I saw him but he's told me he wants to go into rehab. We've organised it so that as soon as he's out, that happens. He wants to go from zero to hero. It's very hard for him being in prison, but at least he's been trying.

"He wants me to live with Amy in her house in Camden when she's out of hospital, but at the moment I don't really want to do that."

But Mitch hopes Amy will be allowed to perform at the Glastonbury Festival next weekend because he believes singing has saved her life. He said: "If she hadn't done recent shows in Moscow and Portugal she could have been dead by now. She abstains and regulates her drug use when she has to do a show.

"When she's been inactive work-wise then that's when the problems really start. The doctors have said that medically there isn't any reason why she can't do Glastonbury."

Mitch says he and Amy's mum - his ex-wife Janis - are trying their best to help their daughter. He said: "My family have been criticised for not doing enough for Amy. Some say we should put her in a room and throw away the key but that's against the law. In our limited way, we are doing the best we can and we are being guided by the doctors and psychologists.

"There's no need to cry yet. If, God forbid, doctors said they can't help her, then that's when we can have a good cry. But if she doesn't go back to drugs then she can lead this magnificent life. With her husband Blake too, if he gets clean as well."

He added: "We are praying that that's what Amy really wants. She seems resolute.

"I've started to see my old Amy back. We'll just have to see how great her resolution is."

What is Emphysema?
Emphysema kills 40,000 Britons a year.

Usually caused by smoking, it ages the lungs prematurely and the effects cannot be reversed.

It can lead to collapsed lungs, heart and brain problems and early death.

Dr Mike Morgan of the British Lung Foundation said: "It's very worrying that Amy has it at her age. But we are seeing a lot more young drug addicts with this condition."

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