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Merle Haggard on Recent Health Scare: ‘I Guess I Was Nearly Dead’

Stephen Lovekin, Getty Images

Merle Haggard is on the mend after a recent hospital stay forced him to cancel some tour dates, and from the sound of it, the country icon is lucky to be alive.

The 78-year-old legend canceled a string of shows in early December, checking into the hospital while battling pneumonia. The singer-songwriter and Country Music Hall of Famer called in to Willie’s Roadhouse on Sirius XM to update fans, and he reveals it was touch and go.

Haggard was hospitalized for two weeks in California.

“I guess I was nearly dead,” he says. “I had double pneumonia …  they couldn’t tell whether I had cancer returned, or whether I just had pneumonia. They had to wait ’til they got the pneumonia under control before we could tell. So it’s been kind of a tough couple of weeks, but I’ve got so many people to thank.”

Haggard ran through a long list of people, including Gene Autry’s widow, Jackie, who talked him into seeking medical attention. “And if I hadn’t done that, I might not be here,” he notes. “We were up here doing a show, and I tried to go out, and I couldn’t do it, and she talked me into coming into this hospital and getting some help.”

He also thanked his doctors, people who’ve offered him support and assistance, his band members and the fans who have been praying for his recovery. “I want to thank the fans for doing that, because it certainly got the job done,” Haggard reflects.

The legend also took a moment to say a kind word for his longtime friend and collaborator, Willie Nelson, “for letting me come on his station here … you guys have shown a lot of respect and attention, and played my records over the years, and don’t think I don’t appreciate it. I do.”

He had one more very special thanks to offer.

“My wife and I both want to thank God for allowing me to have another Christmas,” Haggard adds with a laugh. “It looks like I’m gonna make it to one.”

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