Ric Flair discusses recovery after being given a 20 percent chance to live
Former pro wrestler Ric Flair is eager for fans to get a glimpse of his professional and personal life in the ESPN 30 for 30 film, “Nature Boy”. (1:26)
ATLANTA — Pro wrestling icon Ric Flair feels fortunate to be alive after learning from doctors in August that he had a 20 percent chance to live.
The 68-year-old Flair, appearing at Thursday’s preview of ESPN’s 30 for 30 film “Nature Boy,” talked about how his fiancée, Wendy Barlow, helped him survive after he spent 10 days in a coma from various health complications. Those issues, Flair admitted, related to alcoholism and the wild lifestyle he lived as an entertainer.
“My health is much better than it was,” Flair told ESPN before the preview of the film that puts his life story on display. “When I got out of the hospital, I was 206 pounds. I’m back to 220. I’m allowed to drive a car, even though Wendy won’t ride with me. So, I’m making a lot of strides, considering I couldn’t walk when I got out of the hospital.”
Flair entered the hospital on Aug. 11 after complaining of a stomachache. He initially thought it was food poisoning. Then his body immediately started to shut down, sending him to the intensive care unit.
Flair didn’t recall anything after as he fell into the coma. Barlow, who slept in the ICU every night until Flair was released, shared the details of how Flair’s heart started to fail and his kidneys shut down. He was given a pacemaker and put on dialysis. Flair also has an ileostomy bag attached to an opening in his belly.
“If he would have slept through the night with the stomachache and how bad it was, he would have died that night,” Barlow said. “They said he had a 20 percent chance to live when I took him in there.”
Flair credited Dr. James Elsey and the team of doctors at Gwinnett Medical Center for saving his life.
“A 20 percent chance to make it? Yeah, God did me a huge favor,” Flair said. “I’m so self-conscious that every day, I look up and say, ‘God, I’m lucky to be here.’ And I wanted to make it to tonight’s [preview] so bad. And I did. Each day is a gift for me.”
After leaving the hospital Sept. 1, Flair spent 20 days at a rehab center.
“I could stand on my legs but I couldn’t walk,” Flair said. “I couldn’t even turn the top off a bottle of Gatorade the first two weeks. I was that weak. But now, I feel like I’m doing really well.”
The experience has brought Flair closer to his entire his family, particularly his children. He couldn’t say enough about the support he has received from Barlow through the whole ordeal.
“She slept there for 10 straight days and never left my side,” Flair said. “And she takes care of me now like I’m a king of some kind. I don’t think anybody will ever get the care I got from her. If anybody gets sick and they have a Wendy, their life is in a good place.”
Flair, now content to sit at home and watch “Arrow” on Netflix, hopes others will learn from his story, particularly as it related to alcoholism. He also has stated that he is no longer drinking.
“I dealt with it, but I didn’t know it,” Flair said. “I’m the kind of guy that I never drank at home by myself. I never did that in my whole life. I’ve got to be with people. I don’t have a flask that I carry around. But I can make friends with a bartender in two seconds, and I Iike to socialize.
“My word to be is if you have a problem, monitor your health closely and try to alleviate the problem.”
Flair had to go through detox while in the hospital.
“They had me strapped down, big time,” Flair said. “I told this kid, ‘Hey, I’ll give you $500 if you take these straps off me.’ Then he said, ‘You don’t have your wallet on you.’ I went all the way up to $1,000 and I said, ‘You know who I am?’ And he said, ‘You’re Mr. Ric Flair, but I’m not going to lose my job.”’
Flair received support from celebrities and athletes from across America, including a few text messages from good friend Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons. Fellow pro wrestler Hulk Hogan flew a private jet to Atlanta to visit Flair while he was in a coma. Hogan left a Bible and prayed over Flair before leaving.
“I never knew he was there,” Flair said. “I don’t remember Michael Hayes or anybody coming. Afterward, of course I talked to them.”
Flair, out in public Thursday for just the second time since his near-death experience, got to share stories with some of his old wrestling buddies, including The Undertaker, prior to the 30 for 30 preview.
“My best memory is being in the ring at WrestleMania with him in Toronto,” The Undertaker said. “In that setting, in that stadium, looking across the ring at the greatest of all time, it was a pretty cool and surreal moment.
“With his [health scare], we were worried about him. Only Ric pulls out of something like that. His first words probably were, ‘Wooooo.”’
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