top of page

Now THAT'S Love! Tina Turner's Husband Gave Her His Kidney!

In her newest book, Rock and Roll LEGEND, Tina Turner gives us what is probably the closest look into her life, post-Ike Turner, than we've ever seen. She details how she first met her new husband, how she felt like an "old fool" trying to start dating at 46 and how it was his love for her that saved her life.

Nearly three months after the death of her oldest son, Craig Turner, Tina Turner has opened her life to the public again.

In "My Love Story", she writes from her own perspective, letting the reader know exactly how she was feeling at each moment. The revelation that her health was in danger came just three months after their long awaited wedding. The "What's Love Got To Do With It?" singer says that she "woke up and felt a lightning bolt strike my head and right leg. I tried to speak but I couldn’t get any words out.

I was having a stroke."

Turner had been diagnosed with having high blood pressure and been on medications for it since 1985.

"Dr Jorg Bleisch, an expert nephrologist, broke the news that my kidneys were performing at only 35 per cent of their normal function.

We’d need to monitor them carefully, he said, prescribing yet more medication to control my blood pressure.

What I didn’t realise was that there were bigger battles ahead. Battles that would leave me wondering: ‘How did I go from being the picture of health, a cover girl, a bride for God’s sake, to this?’ After a while, I began to resent the drugs I was taking to control my high blood pressure — I was certain they were making me feel less clear-headed and energetic.

So when a friend recommended a homeopathic doctor in France, I decided to put my faith in another kind of healing.

The homeopath — who replaced my conventional medicines with homeopathic remedies — suggested that my body was being affected adversely by toxins in the water supply at the Château Algonquin. Eager to try a new approach, no matter how far-fetched, I replaced all the pipes in the house and had our water purified by crystals.

The new treatments actually made me feel better. But I knew my doctors wouldn’t approve, so I took the coward’s way out: I simply didn’t tell them.

The trouble started when I went to see Dr Bleisch for another check-up. I felt fine, so I expected good news. That’s why I decided it was time to confess to what I’d done.

Big mistake. Big, big, mistake. He seemed shocked and incredulous. My failure to treat my high blood pressure, he told me, had essentially destroyed my kidneys.

If I’d known that unmanaged high blood pressure could accelerate kidney damage, of course, I wouldn’t have traded my medication for homoeopathic alternatives. As it was, the consequences of my ignorance ended up being a matter of life and death.

Let me be clear: I’m not condemning homeopathy. In fact, I was treated successfully by a homeopathic doctor after being diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1969. But this time I was much older, with a serious long- term illness that needed conventional treatment.

If only I hadn’t discontinued the medication. If, if, if! My foolish decision would continue to haunt me, yet Erwin never once reproached me for it.

Not long after this blow, my health began to fail again. I became so weak that I couldn’t leave the house; it took all my strength to stagger between bedroom and bathroom.

This time, I was diagnosed with early-stage intestinal cancer — a carcinoma and several malignant polyps. As I waited for surgery, I cried to Erwin: ‘Aren’t you sorry you married an old woman?’

Fortunately for me, he always radiated confidence, optimism and joie de vivre, and helped me to keep calm.

A month after my diagnosis, I had part of my intestine removed. The doctors were optimistic and I felt a glimmer of hope again. But just a glimmer, and only for a moment.

By December 2016, my kidneys were at a new low of 20 per cent and plunging rapidly. And I faced two choices: either regular dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Only the transplant would give me a very good chance of leading a near-normal life. But the chances of getting a donor kidney were remote.

At the time, Switzerland’s organ-donor rate was one of the lowest in Europe — which meant that, at 75, I’d probably never rise to the top of the waiting list.

So Dr Bleisch scheduled me to start dialysis. ‘Oh no, no, no,’ I told him. ‘I’m not living on a machine.’

It wasn’t my idea of life. But the toxins in my body had started taking over. I couldn’t eat. I was surviving, but not living.

I began to think about death. If my kidneys were going, and it was time for me to die, I could accept that. It was OK. When it’s time, it’s really time. I didn’t mind the thought of dying, but I was concerned about how I would go.

One of the benefits of living in Switzerland is that assisted suicide is legal, though the patient has to inject the lethal drug herself.

There are several organisations that facilitate the process, including Exit and Dignitas. I signed up to be a member of Exit, just in case.

I think that’s when the idea of my death became a reality for Erwin. He was very emotional about not wanting to lose me, not wanting me to leave.

He said he didn’t want another woman, or another life; we were happy and he’d do anything to keep us together.

Then he shocked me. He said that he wanted to give me one of his kidneys.

I was overwhelmed by the enormity of his offer. But because I love him, my first response was to try to talk him out of taking such a serious and irreversible step.

He was a young man. Why should he take such a risk to give an older woman a few extra years? What if he had a problem some day with his remaining kidney?

‘Darling, you’re young. Don’t, don’t, don’t interfere with your life. Think about your own future,’ I urged. But Erwin had made up his mind. ‘My future is our future,’ he told me.

At the University Hospital of Basel, Erwin had to go through a battery of psychological tests to make sure he was donating a kidney for the right reasons.

As I’d expected, the doctors accepted that he knew what he was doing. Erwin always knows exactly what he’s doing; that’s his nature. His offer to give me his kidney was a gift of love, and he remained unflappable and relaxed. Next, there were medical tests to determine our compatibility, and we got the encouraging news that we shared the same type A blood group. Meanwhile, all I could hear was the clock ticking. I couldn’t afford to lose a bit of my strength, energy or courage.

I was already a high-risk patient because of my recent cancer, but the risk escalated when tests showed that my heart had been damaged by so many years of high blood pressure: the muscle was enlarged and the vessels calcified.

There was some question about whether a weak heart could withstand the stress of surgery.