Tina Turner Reveals She Underwent a Life-Saving Kidney Transplant — and Husband Was the Donor
Tina Turner‘s abusive relationship with husband and musical partner Ike made her understandably wary when it came to dating. But in her upcoming memoir My Love Story, the diva details her second chance at love — and how it literally saved her life.
It was 1985, not quite a decade after she left Ike for good, when she met her current husband, Erwin Bach. Sixteen years her junior, the sparks flew immediately.
“I was kind of naughty in those early days,” Turner, now 78, writes. “One night I said to myself, I’m just going to ask him. I looked at him — so handsome in his Lacoste shirt, jeans, and loafers without socks — and whispered, ‘Erwin, when you come to America, I want you to make love to me.’ He just looked at me, as if he couldn’t believe his ears. I couldn’t believe what I said either!”
Despite her status as a mega-voiced global superstar, Turner admits she often struggled with self-confidence when she was away from the spotlight.
“I was never one of those women who had to have sex no matter what. There have been times when I’ve gone up to a year without it, to be honest. Don’t laugh, but I’ve always been a little nervous about starting a relationship with a new man because I didn’t know how my wig would be received! As much as I loved the convenience and easy beauty it gave me, I always ran the risk of meeting a man who might have a problem becoming romantically involved with Tina, with her bountiful hair and glamorous trimmings, but waking up with unadorned Anna Mae. What if he were disappointed by the real me?”
Bach was clearly not disappointed. By the early ’90s they shared a home in Cologne, Germany, before his job required a move to Switzerland — where they currently reside. Though she turned down his first marriage proposal, they tied the knot in 2013, after more than 26 years as a couple.
But their honeymoon period was to be short-lived, as Turner suffered a stroke just three weeks after they wed. Unaware of the severity of her condition, she attempted to leave the doctor’s office.
“That’s when I discovered I couldn’t stand on my own,” she recalls. “I was too embarrassed to call for help. Legs for days and muscles of steel from dancing, but I didn’t have the strength to get up. Terrified, I dragged myself over to a sofa, all the while thinking that I couldn’t imagine Tina Turner paralyzed. I doubted that I would ever be able to wear high heels again, let alone dance in them.”
She learned to walk again, but was dealt another blow just a few years later. In 2016 she was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. Despite the scary news, Bach bolstered her spirits. “Erwin always radiated confidence, optimism and joie de vivre,” she says. “With his help, I tried to keep calm.”
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Unpleasant side effects led Turner to eschew traditional treatment in favor of homeopathic remedies. Unfortunately, this only caused her condition to get worse, and before long she faced total kidney failure.
“The consequences of my ignorance ended up being a matter of life and death,” she writes. “At this terrible moment of guilt and self-recrimination, I learned something wonderful about Erwin. He never reproached me for my mistake. Instead, he was loyal, kind and understanding — and determined to help me get through all this alive.”
At her moment of deepest crisis, Bach made the ultimate offering: he volunteered to donate a kidney.
“I wondered if anyone would think that Erwin’s living donation was transactional in some way,” she says. “Incredibly, considering how long we had been together, there were still people who wanted to believe that Erwin married me for my money and fame. What else would a younger man want with an older woman? Erwin always ignored the rumors.”
The operation, which took place in April 2017, was largely a success, though she still manages complications as her body tries to reject the new organ. The resulting symptoms, such as “dizziness, forgetfulness, anxiety and the occasional bout of insane diarrhea,” has made life a challenge at times. But with Bach by her side, she continues to persevere.
“I lived through a hellish marriage that almost destroyed me, but I went on. I know that my medical adventure is far from over. But I’m still here — we’re still here, closer than we ever imagined. I can look back and understand why my karma was the way it was. Good came out of bad. Joy came out of pain. And I have never been so completely happy as I am today.”