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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 October 2005, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
Ill Best's frequent health scares
George Best in 2004
Best had a life-saving liver transplant three years ago
George Best has been in and out of hospital ever since being diagnosed with severe liver damage five-and-a-half years ago.

The former Manchester United and Northern Ireland player was admitted to the private Cromwell Hospital in Kensington after suffering stomach pains in March 2000.

Best spent five weeks undergoing treatment and tests and pledged to heed doctors' advice to give up drinking.

But in July 2000, he reportedly embarked on a drinking binge after a row his wife Alex.

The incident prompted Best to book himself into a health farm near his home in Hampshire and he later started work on his autobiography.

In February 2001, Best was treated at Belfast City Hospital for pneumonia resulting from a respiratory infection.

"It's always worrying when someone gets an infection - but on the underlying problem [liver damage] I understand he's been feeling better and things are looking improved," said his doctor, Professor Roger Williams.

'Irreparable damage'

Hopes that Best would stay dry appear to have been short-lived.

In March 2001, there were concerns about Best's drinking after he pulled out of TV engagements.

And a month later he was back at the Cromwell to undergo radical surgery to help him kick the booze; anti-alcohol pellets were implanted into his stomach.

Trying to second-guess myself is impossible
George Best in 2003

The year ended with confirmation that years of heavy drinking had caused irreparable damage to Best's health.

He was admitted to hospital in Limassol, Cyprus, suffering from a fever and a gastrointestinal tract infection in December 2001.

Later that month, he was told his liver was only functioning at 20% and he needed a transplant.

The liver performs more than 400 functions needed to keep the body healthy - including breaking down alcohol and other substances that could be harmful or toxic.

Best had to wait eight months for a suitable liver to be found.

In July 2002, he underwent 10 hours of major surgery at the Cromwell Hospital, needing 40 pints of blood during the life-saving transplant operation.

"I know myself I will never drink again," Best said after the treatment.

"The only reason I would is because I want to kill myself or I want to go through this again - and I don't want either, so there's no reason to drink."

Yet it was not long before media reports started to again emerge about his drinking, drawing criticism from a liver specialist for putting people off organ donation.

'Disastrous'

In August 2002, the football legend was readmitted to the Cromwell and had treatment for a "little leak" of bile to prevent the spread of infection following the transplant.

Professor Roger Williams
Prof Williams has long tried to warn Best off drinking

Best himself was soon admitting he was having difficulties controlling his drinking urges.

"My problem is that I don't feel it coming on," he said in his Mail on Sunday column in 2003. "It's a split-second thing - trying to second-guess myself is impossible."

When Best's wife Alex told reporters he was back on the booze in July 2003, Professor Williams warned it would be disastrous if the soccer legend continued to drink.

In February 2004, Best appeared in court where he admitted driving almost two-and-a-half times over the legal limit.

He emerged from hospital last November, after a routine biopsy procedure to check on his liver transplant, saying he was feeling "fit and healthy".

But Best's failure to give up the bottle following his operation three years ago had long caused concerns.

Professor Williams has said the star's latest hospital admission - to tackle a kidney infection - was not directly related to his problems with alcohol.

Best, however, would have been more susceptible to a kidney infection because he has been on a course of medication to suppress the immune system and prevent his body rejecting a new liver.




SEE ALSO:
Best 'healthy' after liver test
23 Nov 04 |  Northern Ireland
Best banned for drink driving
02 Feb 04 |  England



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