Chester Bennington has pretty much overcome the mystery stomach and back ailment that recently landed him in the hospital, but the Linkin Park singer's medical woes aren't over.
After the band finishes touring behind Meteora, Bennington will undergo surgery for a hiatal hernia, a condition that occurs when part of the stomach slides above the diaphragm, allowing stomach acid to flow freely into the esophagus.
"I'm kind of queasy all the time," Bennington said Wednesday during a break from the Summer Sanitarium Tour. "I'm basically gonna be sick to my stomach until I have the surgery done. Every night when I sing, it kind of pisses off the hernia. Last night I was vomiting when I was singing."
Hiatal hernias are fairly common, causing burning pain and nausea. Most of the time they can be controlled with antacids, diet regulation and inclining of the head and shoulders. But sometimes, as with Bennington, they require surgery.
"Food doesn't stay in my stomach. It comes in and out whenever it feels like," he said. "So when I'm singing and I'm actually using my whole body to sing, things get forced out while I'm performing. There's a lot of burning that happens every once and a while. But I'll pretty much be nauseous forever. It's going to be that way indefinitely."
Bennington has long suffered from a nervous stomach and once had to cancel a Projekt Revolution gig because his stomach acid singed his throat so badly it caused an infection. But he only found out he had a hiatal hernia when doctors were trying to diagnose the other stomach condition that plagued him in early May (see "Linkin Park's Chester Bennington Hospitalized").
At the time, DJ Joseph Hahn was in Prague shooting opening scenes and B-roll for the band's next video, "Numb," and the rest of the band was rehearsing for a European tour. Then, without warning, Bennington fell ill.
"I woke up one day, it was about 10 o'clock in the morning," he said. "My back hurt, so I took a couple Advil. By noon I was sweating and feeling like I had the flu. And by 12:30 I was convulsing and being taken to the hospital. So it all happened very fast. They don't know where I got it or what it was."
When Bennington started feeling better and was able to eat, his doctors gave him permission to go home (see "Linkin Park's Chester Bennington Released From Hospital"). Three weeks later the singer was on location in Los Angeles for the relocated "Numb" video. From there, the road to the Summer Sanitarium was quick and grueling.
"I wasn't feeling that great at first because I was still working on getting my stamina back," Bennington said. "During rehearsals I could only get through six songs rather than 17. I'd just get to a point where I would go, 'Man, I gotta go sit down.' So doing the video shoot was hard because Mike [Shinoda] and I were in almost every shot, and some of our days can go for 22 hours. And I can't lip-sync. I might not hit the notes all day, but I'm not lip-syncing, I'm screaming my brains out. It's a very tiring process, and I knew that and the rehearsals for the first week of Sanitarium were gonna whip my ass right back into shape, and it did."
Doubling over in pain in a hospital while doctors probed and then shrugged their shoulders had a profound effect on Bennington. Not only did it teach him to appreciate life, it made him yearn to be a better person.
"You kind of figure out that your entire existence can be flipped upside-down in a matter of minutes and no one is safe," he said. "And you just need to take care of yourself and respect people around you and love the people who love you. Those are the kinds of things that matter. When I was in the hospital, I was thinking to myself, 'Oh, man, I'm upset with one of my family members, And that could have been the last time I talked to him. I don't want that to happen again.' "