Singer, songwriter Lou Reed, formerly with the Velvet Underground, had a liver transplant last month, according to his wife, the musician and performance artist Laurie Anderson.
"It's as serious as it gets. He was dying. You don't get it for fun," said Anderson, who added that her husband was now on the road to recovery following the life-saving surgery.
Reed, 71, cancelled a number of concerts in April and had surgery in Cleveland rather than in his native New York due to what Anderson described as the "dysfunctional" hospitals in his home town. She said: "I don't think he'll ever totally recover from this, but he'll certainly be back to doing [things] in a few months. He's already working and doing t'ai chi. I'm very happy. It's a new life for him."
The couple, above, have been together for more than 20 years but got married in 2008 following a spur-of-the-moment decision while talking on the phone.
Anderson, whose 1981 single, O Superman, reached number two in the British charts, spoke of her awe for the operation which saved Reed's life.
"You send out two planes – one for the donor, one for the recipient – at the same time. You bring the donor in live, you take him off life support. It's a technological feat.
"I was completely awestruck. I find certain things about technology truly, deeply inspiring."
Reed surprised fans in New York in March when he appeared at a playback of his seminal album Transformer.
Best known as guitarist, vocalist, and principal songwriter of the Velvet Underground, Reed has also had a successful solo career spanning a number of decades, producing hits such as Walk on the Wild Side in 1972. Recent collaborations have included a 2011 album with the rock group Metallica.
Anderson is due to perform at the Barbican in London this month with the string ensemble, Kronos Quartet.