Portnoy: I didn’t expect special NHS treatment

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Mike Portnoy has apologised to anyone offended by his health service rant after a visit to Accident & Emergency in London on Saturday.

The drummer caused controversy after issuing a “no thanks” message to London’s Whittington Hospital on Saturday. He’d had to leave their A&E ward without medical attention in order to perform with the Neal Morse Band at the Islington Assembly Hall.

His Facebook post generated nearly 3000 responses in 24 hours, with some offering support and others suggesting his ego had got the better of him. One comment even came from a Whittington staff doctor.

Now Portnoy says: “I’d just like to apologise to anybody I offended. It was not a personal attack or rage against England’s health care system in general, of which I know nothing.

“Yesterday I was the sickest I’ve ever been in my life. Paramedics came to see me at the gig and decided to take me to the emergency room – only for the ambulance to run out of gas. I was then driven to the hospital by a very kind fan.

“Neal and I calmly waited in the A&E without any indication of when I would be seen. I did not expect any special treatment, or want to be put ahead of anybody else in need, as I have been so wrongly accused. We only wanted some – any – answers as the clock was ticking until showtime.”

Portnoy says he got to the point where he had to decide to keep waiting or return to the venue, and finally left with 15 minutes before he was to take the stage. He continues: “I played the show in the worst physical condition of my life. I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating this experience was, and I stupidly posted about it on my social media.

But he adds: “I am shocked and appalled at some of the rude and downright nasty comments that have been posted. It’s sad to see such hatred – but I can suck it up and take it.

“I surely never meant for such attention and controversy. Thank you to everybody that cared and sent me well wishes and prayers. The positive vibes will help me on the road to recovery.” > Mike was severely ill, and was advised not to go on stage

Bandmate Neal Morse has posted in support of Portnoy, saying: “No one made a scene – we were all very polite. I did most of the talking as Mike was pretty out of it.

“I found a nurse who kindly looked him up in the computer to see where he was in the queue, and said he wouldn’t be seen for quite a while and there was no way to change that.

“So Mike opted to go back and do the gig untreated.That’s what happened as best I can tell it.”

Morse – who says he’d suffered the same “nasty” illness earlier on the tour – adds: “Mike was never rude to anyone at all. This is being blown way out of proportion. The fact that he did the gig as well as he did is a testimony to what a workhorse kind of guy he is.”

Bill Evans, executive producer with Portnoy’s band Flying Colors, is a former emergency medical professional – and insists Portnoy’s main concern was his fans.

Evans says: “I can attest that Mike was severely ill, and was advised not to go on stage by myself and others.

“He wasn’t upset because of his own comfort or an expectation regarding his identity. It was because of all the fans he would be letting down, including quite a few who flew in from around the world. Anyone who follows Mike knows this.”

He adds: “Artists at all levels sometimes choose, or need, to go on stage when very sick. They do it for their fans. Thank you to those of you who do this – you have my utmost respect.”

The drummer played as planned with Morse in Belgium last night, and aims to continue with the band’s European tour until it finishes on March 14.