Eric Church had a terrifying health scare in 2017 that required emergency surgery to save his life.

Church tells Rolling Stone Country that he first noticed some odd tingling in his hands when he was finishing his world tour in 2017, but “I just associated it with nerves,” he says. “I didn’t think it was anything.”

In June of 2017, he was watching the College World Series and texting about it when he noticed that his left hand "was not responding like it should." He realized his arm was swollen, and when he took his shirt off and looked in the mirror, "my arm was noticeably red and enlarged."

Church had heard about people suffering thrombosis on airplanes, so he Googled the term. "I had five out of five symptoms," he says.

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The superstar drove himself to the hospital, where he was informed he needed an ultrasound they could not perform. By the time he reached another hospital, it was nearing 5AM, and he admits he started thinking about the worst that could happen.

“I was thinking about my family and kids, and how I wanted to make it back home. But I was also thinking about the tour, and what we went through. I looked back and I honestly felt pretty satisfied that I couldn’t have given another thing."

Diagnosed with a blood clot in his chest, Church asked, "Can it kill me?" When the doctors responded, "Today," he realized the seriousness of his condition.

"To them, I was going to die," he reflects. Church ended up undergoing surgery for a birth defect called thoracic outlet syndrome, in which in which the top rib is too close to the collarbone.

“There’s a major vein that runs through there, and when I would raise my arm, it would pinch it and damage the vein," he says. "The clot was where it tried to heal. But it kept backing up, backing up. And like any clot, when you get enough pressure, it’s gonna blow.”

Doctors told Church he was lucky, since most cases are discovered while people are in their 20s. By the time someone is his age, he says, "They usually just fall over in the shower."

After three days of recovery, Church underwent another surgery to have his top rib removed, followed by months of physical therapy and rehab. By September, he was back out on tour. He says he has suffered no long-term nerve damage; he can still play guitar, and in fact, "I play golf better than ever."

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