Paul O’Grady ‘not afraid to die’ after lucky escape while filming in India

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TV star Paul O’Grady feared he was going to die after falling ill and collapsing while working in India.

The 62-year-old was rushed to hospital and give life-saving emergency treatment in New Delhi after falling ill in his hotel room.

Doctors told the Wirral TV presenter and comic he was “heading for renal failure” after he picked up a serious infection while filming his latest ITV show.

Paul – who has already recovered from three heart attacks – told Mirror Online: “I used to think I was invincible, but now I’m running out of lives.”

The dog lover believes he picked up a bug after handling some wounded puppies in the Indian capital.

“They had been bitten by rats and there were maggots in them,” says the star. “I must have touched my mouth with my hand and I started vomiting at five in the morning. The doctor was called and he said, ‘You’re so seriously dehydrated, you’re heading for renal failure’.

Next thing I know I’m in an Indian hospital, not knowing what was going on and expecting the worst.

“The nurse came every half hour to pump me full of antibiotics and saline.”

Paul decided to speak out about his illness after being bowled over by the kindness of the staff who cared for him.

“When I was in hospital I couldn’t face breakfast,” he says. “The thought was making me feel so sick and a lovely guy said, ‘hang on, I’ll get you some fresh coconut water’, and he presented me with half a coconut and a straw.

“I was like ‘hang on a minute this is a third world country – I didn’t get this in St Thomas’s in London.’ I couldn’t believe it.”

Paul said despite his latest health scare, he’s not afraid of dying. “I’m not scared of death at all,” he said.

“It’s the way you die that worries me – that’s the fear. I think I could lie there on my death bed and say, ‘well I’ve had a good time and filled a book. I’ve done everything I wanted to do’.”

Since returning to England last week, Paul has been checked over by his doctors. He said: “How’s my health generally?

“Well, put it this way, when I went to see my cardiologist she did the blood pressure, treadmill, ultrasound and said to me, ‘I don’t know how you do it. You’re not human.’

“I think health can also be a state of mind, I’ve had three heart attacks and I’m fine. You’ve got to take your medication and exercise. Your heart’s a muscle so you can’t just sit on the sofa and moan you’re not well.

“You see things that make you more aware of mortality. I’ve lost lots of friends lately to cancer – and the AIDS years were like a clean sweep of all my mates. You have to accept things and realise you haven’t got 50 years any more like you had as a teenager.”

Paul admits he “wasn’t prepared for the shocking conditions” when he went to film his show For The Love of Dogs in Delhi.

He said he would smuggle food out of his hotel room mini bar to feed children living on the streets. After being blessed by a Hindu priest, he visited a dogs home that made Battersea “look like the Savoy”.

His hands were “ripped to shreds” as he tried to save a group of puppies – and he hopes viewers feel uncomfortable watching it, saying: “It’s certainly done that to me.”

When he’s not filming around the world, Paul lives with husband Andre Portasio in their Kent farm house tending to their three goats, six pigs, chickens, ducks, and sheep. They even have nine barn owls living there.

Paul said: “Animals are instinctively drawn to me.”

With so many animals and two epileptic dogs, Bullseye and Boycie, his vet bills are huge.

And he admits it has taken a while for ballet dancer Andre, 37, to understand his way of life.

The pair married in August at an intimate London wedding with 50 guests including Sir Ian McKellan.

Paul said: “When Andre first met a sheep he screamed the place down. He’s become more animal friendly – softened since getting his own dog Conchita – but the thing with her is that she always comes to me.

“He goes mad and says I’m stealing his animal, but I get accused of this from lots of people.”

Paul’s daily routine consists of him wrapping his dogs’ tablets in cheese every morning as well as taking his own.

He said: “I sometimes end up putting my own in a square of cheese, before noticing and thinking, ‘what the hell are you doing?’

“For god’s sake I’m turning into a dog.”

And he admitted “being married doesn’t actually feel any different” and said the secret to their success is they live in separate houses when in London.

“We both agreed that we had to have our own little den where we can go and to have a place of our own,” said Paul. “It works really well – I see him every day.”

And, of course, the dogs share the beds in their Kent home where there is “a real hierarchy”.

But he and Andre rarely watch TV together. Paul said: “It’s changed as I’ve got older. Used to be a telly addict. Not much appeals to me now.”

After spending over 30 years in showbusiness, the entertainer – who shot to fame as cross dresser Lily Savage – has his views on the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal that has spread like wildfire.

Paul said he has been groped on regular occasions by fans – and that there is a big difference between someone “hitting on somebody” and sexual assault.

He explained: “It isn’t acceptable for a producer to come onto a young actress when they’re going in for an interview/audition because they want that job and they don’t know how to handle it.

But where is the line drawn between hitting on somebody and chatting them up? It was all very different in my day.

“I don’t consider a hand in the small of your back being sexual. Or when Adam Sandler put his hand on Clare Foy’s knee on Graham Norton – she wasn’t bothered, but everybody else was. It was all blown up, ridiculous.

“I went up to see Cilla the musical in Liverpool for the press night and there were loads of women in the audience.

“I had my bum squeezed, I was groped, I was kissed, I was dragged down, had selfies.

“If I was a young girl and there were men there doing that there would be an almighty hooha.

“It should all be anonymous unless proven guilty. Careers ruined. Lives ruined.”

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