Yesterday, George Michael’s management put out a press release announcing the cancellation of the remaining dates of his Symphonica tour. The press release included a quote from senior members of the medical team responsible for treating George’ in Vienna. This is the relevant section of the press release:
Prof. Dr. Christoph Zielinski, Chairman, Department of Medicine General Hospital – Medical University Vienna, Austria and Prof. Dr. Thomas Staudinger, Specialist in Internal Medicine and Intensive Care Medicine have stated the following:
“George Michael has severe community acquired pneumonia and is being treated as an inpatient. His condition has stabilized and he is responding to treatment. From the current point of view, the time until recovery cannot be estimated, but he will not be able to perform the rest of the tour. Besides medical treatment, complete rest and peace and quiet are mandatory.”
This is an important statement because these clinicians have no interest in being quoted as saying anything other than the truth. There has been a lot of speculation about George’s illness in the press. So, what does this statement tell us about the facts of George’s condition? In short, I think it’s probably good news.
Let’s take each sentence in turn, and see what we can glean…
George Michael has severe community acquired pneumonia and is being treated as an inpatient.
The primary condition George is suffering from is “severe CAP”. This is a serious illness, and treatment has required him to be hospitalized. What is the prognosis for this condition? From Wikipedia,
Fever typically responds in the first two days of therapy and other symptoms resolve in the first week. The x-ray, however, may remain abnormal for at least a month, even when CAP has been successfully treated. Among individuals who require hospitalization, the mortality rate averages 12% overall, but is as much as 40% in people who have bloodstream infections or require intensive care.
It should be noted that while the statement does not explicitly say that George has required intensive care, it’s clear that he has. That’s because part of the definition of “severe” CAP is that the patient requires admission to an ICU. That said, there is not enough information in this sentence to make any sensible assessment of just how serious George’s illness is/has been.
The next sentence in the official statement is,
His condition has stabilized and he is responding to treatment.
Here, the clinicians describe George’s state as “stable”. It’s unclear exactly what they mean by this. However, we can certainly infer the following. Whatever his condition has been previously, George is not currently getting worse. Previously, though, his condition has been unstable. They also say that George is responding to treatment. Again, it’s unclear exactly what they mean, but it does suggest that his condition is improving. They say nothing about how quickly he’s improving, though.
Now, the next sentence,
From the current point of view, the time until recovery cannot be estimated, but he will not be able to perform the rest of the tour.
Here, they are saying that, based on his current condition, they have no idea how long it will take him to recover, but the time will be months not weeks. However, the most important thing about this sentence is that it sounds like they expect that he will recover (I hope I’m not reading too much into that). In other words, it sounds to me like they do not currently consider George’s life to be at serious risk.
The final sentence in the statement is,
Besides medical treatment, complete rest and peace and quiet are mandatory.
Here, they are letting everyone (friends, management, fans, media) not to expect too much in the way of communication from George for the moment. In other words, they want him left alone. Certainly, they won’t want him spending any time at all thinking/worrying about his work.
That’s it, then. The statement reveals very little detail about George’s illness or the nature of the treatment George has been receiving. It says nothing about any complications that have arisen as a result of the pneumonia. In summary, it sounds very much like George has been critically ill in the last few days with a serious risk that he could have died, and that he remains very ill at present. The signs are positive that he will make a recovery, however, but it will probably take a few months. Fingers crossed the worst is behind him…