After dropping the bombshell news over the weekend that his daughter, Amy Winehouse, is suffering from the incurable pulmonary ailment emphysema , Mitch Winehouse modified his statement on Monday (June 23) to say that the 24-year-old “Rehab” singer is suffering from an early stage of the disease and is responding well to treatment.
In an interview with BBC 1 Radio, he again confirmed that his daughter will perform at the Glastonbury Festival in England on Saturday and that medical tests conducted since she fainted at her home on June 16 have shown that she has a “small amount of emphysema.”
Emphysema is an incurable disease that reduces the ability of the sufferer’s lungs to expel air due to damage to tiny airways called bronchioles. People with emphysema may feel short of breath while exerting themselves and, as the disease progresses, even while at rest.
The singer’s U.S. publicist, Tracey Miller, said on Monday that her client is “showing early signs of what could lead to emphysema but is reacting well to treatment.”
According to Dr. Norman H. Edelman, Chief Medical Officer for the American Lung Association, emphysema is a disease that does not ever go away, but its progression can be stopped if the sufferer ceases smoking. “If she stopped those things, her decline in lung function would be at the rate of normal people,” said Edelman, who has not treated Winehouse but was familiar with her story from media reports. “If she keeps on smoking, the fact that she has early emphysema means she will have a more rapid decline in lung function as well.”
Edelman said that with current tests it is possible to pick up signs of emphysema before any symptoms are present, and he said he suspects that the fact that Winehouse is still able to perform is an indication that her breathing capacity is still reasonably strong. “But it’s a warning to her,” he added. “If you want to keep working, you’d better stop inhaling bad stuff into your lungs.”
Mitch Winehouse also refuted other claims concerning his daughter’s health, telling the BBC, “There’s been some confusing messages coming out. There’s been stuff about TB, stuff about HIV, but she hasn’t got any of that. She has a small amount of emphysema. Obviously there’s a hangover from the drugs situation,” he said. “But with no more inhalation from smoke of any kind, she’ll be absolutely fine. That’s the extent of her medical problems.”
Saying that the medical situation — which includes a small amount of scarring on the singer’s lungs — is “scary,” he added that the disease has not progressed “too far. It’s not irreparable. Really she can’t even smoke anymore, let alone the other thing. With patience, her lungs will recover completely. She’s responding really well to treatment, she’s flourishing.”
One of the main motivations that Winehouse said is keeping his daughter’s spirits up is the thought of being able to take the stage and perform again. “That’s what she lives for, and she really wants to do the gigs at the weekend. And with the doctors’ permission — and they have given her permission — she will perform,” he told the BBC. “She will be well enough to be at Glastonbury, not could be. She’s well enough to be at Glastonbury now.”
Saying the singer was “smothered” in nicotine patches to help her get over cigarette cravings, Winehouse added that his daughter understands that she must stop smoking and that “the only thing that can go in her lungs right now is fresh air. She doesn’t have emphysema, she has traces of it. Obviously if she doesn’t quit smoking, it’s going to get worse.”
Winehouse said he’s much less worried about Amy’s health than he was last week and that her future is “a lot brighter than it was,” adding, “Things have really turned a corner. … She’s very intelligent and she knows what she needs to do and she’s getting on with it.”