by Natalie Finn | Thu., Oct. 13, 2016 5:00 AM
Lamar Odom almost died a year ago.
The former L.A. Lakers star, desperate for a comeback with the NBA but unable to shake the demons that had been steadily encroaching on him for years, went on a bender and overdosed on drugs, including herbal Viagra, at a brothel in Crystal, Nev., about 80 miles away from Las Vegas.
An ambulance took him to nearby Desert View Hospital, where he was initially treated; too big to be airlifted via helicopter, the 6-foot, 10-inch-tall Odom was then transported via Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Ambulance to Sunrise Hospital in Vegas.
The brothel owner had said the Viagra was the only drug in the room other than alcohol, two-thirds of a bottle of Cognac still left untouched, but doctors found a cocktail of drugs in Odom's system, including cocaine.
He was in a coma and experts were guessing that he had suffered brain damage due to a lack of oxygen when he lost consciousness and choked on his own mucous. Everyone expected the worst and conflicting rumors were coming out of the hospital.
Khloe, who had tried to save her marriage for as long as she could in the face of Odom's cheating, his disappearances and his increasingly destructive substance abuse issues before finally filing for divorce in December 2013, flew immediately to Vegas to be with him. Most of her family, including Kris Jennerand a pregnant Kim Kardashian, who canceled the baby shower she had planned for the following weekend, visited the hospital as well.
It would later be revealed that, despite them being divorced for all intents and purposes, a judge had never signed off on the split; meaning, Khloe and Lamar were still married and she, as his next of kin other than his two minor children, was in charge of his medical affairs.
By the evening of Oct. 13, Odom was in a coma and had suffered organ damage. Three days later, he opened his eyes, recognized Khloe, who hadn't left his side, and was breathing on his own.
"A miracle," Kris Jenner called his survival at the time, and no one who thought—or was told—he was going to die could've agreed more. Yet waking up was only the beginning of his recovery.
Aside from the internal injuries, including kidney failure and possible neurological damage, that he would have to battle back from, Odom's addiction issues were what had threatened to destroy his life.
On Oct. 19, Khloe was by his side as he was transported via helicopter to Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He remained there, with Khloe visiting him regularly, through the holidays and New Year's, until he was discharged and moved into a private rehabilitation center closer to Calabasas, center of the Kardashian family universe and where Khloe moved back to after she and Lamar sold their marital home in Tarzana.
Khloe called off the divorce, prompting speculation that maybe—just maybe—this tragedy would be the glue that would stick them back together. She later shared that she felt it was "insensitive" to have that looming over Lamar while he was trying to recover, and it was easier for her to focus and advise on his medical care if they put divorce on the back burner.
"I know it was very confusing to the world. Because I was with him, everyone thought we were getting back together," Khloe told Redbook. "But there was no one else to make the important medical decisions. I had to be there to make sure he would survive. I learned that strength is how you handle the good and the bad, and the situation with Lamar was where I found my strength."
And that would work both ways, with the strength exhibited by Khloe and her family proving essential to Lamar as he fought his way back from the brink. The family who had made him one of their own when he married Khloe answered the call without question as he started on the long journey back to being able to care for himself again.
"I'm just there to support and care for him," Khloe told reporters during the 2016 Television Critics Association winter press tour in January. "But he's doing amazing and I'm so proud of the strength that he has to fight this battle that's his battle. I'm so grateful for everybody's love and concern because I do think it's coming from a good place."
And as seen on Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Khloe was fully consumed with what was going on with Lamar for months.
"The situation right now is incredibly fragile, hospital life is not fun and it's depressing and sad and I'm very protective over Lamar right now," she talked about his ongoing recovery, which was still at Cedars at the time. "I feel so guilty being away from him, even though I have technically left the hospital, my brain is still at the hospital. I get super anxious."
And it was obvious that remaining close to Khloe and the rest of her family was a literal lifeline for Lamar.
"He's hung out with Kourt's and [Kim]'s kids. He loves family time," Khloe shared with Ellen DeGeneres around that time. "So, he's been doing really good. I think it makes him feel good to be around everyone, too, and to just be in a happy environment over, obviously, where he was." Odom was also spending time with Scott Disick, who had checked into rehab while Lamar was in the hospital, and with Rob Kardashian, who lived with his sister and brother-in-law for a time during their marriage and was very close to Lamar.
"They have a very strong friendship and have helped each other out of dark times, and continue to lift each other up," a source told E! News in March.
Odom was even instrumental in helping Khloe adjust to Rob's relationship with Blac Chyna—the couple went public as an item in March, they were engaged by April and their first child together is on the way.
Shortly after Rob and Chyna announced their engagement, Lamar encouraged Khloe to call her brother, reminding her, "Marriage ain't easy, honey child." "Your marriage wasn't easy?" Khloe joked back. "It does make me smile, knowing he's finally going to answer one of my phone calls," Khloe talked later about the experience. "I have always loved Lamar and Rob's relationship and bond," she added, "and I want them to hang out. But you know, I still want my one-on-one time with Rob."
To this day, Rob is continuing to rebuild his connection with his family as he gets ready to be a dad.
And Lamar's recovery continues—but over the summer those close to him feared the worse was imminent once again when he relapsed into the sort of self-defeating behavior that brought him down in the first place.
Odom attended Kobe Bryant's farewell Lakers game on April 13 at Staples Center, where the former Laker told Entertainment Tonight, "I've never been better, especially after tonight. [Kobe] had 60 tonight. He is the world, learned so much from him off the court, on the court, everything kinda translates and life is beautiful." In response to rumors that he was back to partying, only six months after he almost died, Odom indicated that people who don't know him can't possibly know what he's up to.
"I mean, it gets tough, especially if so much gets speculated," he said about all the scrutiny of his actions. "Only a few people know the truth, and I just keep that close to my heart."
As for his relationship with Khloe, "everything is [up for] discussion. We talk about anything. We've been through a lot. It won't ever stop." Moreover, the 36-year-old athlete said he was determined to "get back on the court."
A source told E! News then that Lamar was never trying to hide the fact that he went to a bar from Khloe. "Khloe is really trying to help Lamar get his life back but doesn't want to make him feel like she's controlling him or make him feel suffocated," the insider said. "She continues to support him through the recovery process and, since he does have a history with addiction, she is worried but isn't going to intervene unless it turns into a problem."
All the while, though he looked fairly like his old self in pictures, he was continuing physical therapy and other treatment related to his health scare. In the spring, he moved into a rental house in Calabasas near Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian's homes, and his mobility was steadily improving.
"It's as if the accident never happened. He almost died and came back the same person," another source said. "We are all so happy and grateful. Eventually Lamar hopes he might even be able to play basketball again. That's what he is working towards. And no one has more determination than Lamar. His recovery is a testament to his incredible spirit and drive."
Going to a bar with pals "was literally his way of trying to gain some semblance of a normal life," the source asserted. "He wants to try and get out there a little more and get back to a regular schedule."
Odom attended Easter services with the Kardashian family but, just weeks later, he was photographed drinking what appeared to be alcohol in the middle of the day at the Beverly Center mall in L.A. Khloe tweeted her disapproval—and disappointment. While on vacation in Cuba in early May, she was trying to get ahold of Odom, worried because he's been acting "different."
"I mean even his drinking alone is so bothersome to me and it makes me so furious because he can't even be drinking, it hasn't even been one year," she lamented to her close friend Malika Haqq.
She filed for divorce again on May 26.
"I was holding out to help Lamar but Lamar's not helping himself, so I have to do what's best for me and I have to move on and just be done," Khloe said on KUWTK. "There's no reason to hold on to this, it will always be love and I will always love Lamar and be his friend, but it's time for me to start the next chapter of my life."
Odom didn't file his response until July 8. Three days later, he dropped $2,000 on drinks and lap dances at a strip club and later that night was escorted off a flight from L.A. to New York after vomiting twice on the plane before take-off, reportedly after having more drinks at the Delta Sky Club at LAX. He made it to New York by the next day, July 12, where he was spotted doing some shopping in his native Queens.
"I don't know what happened. It was a big surprise to me," Kris Jenner said in a radio interview when asked about the incident on the plane, noting that she hadn't personally talked to Odom in the days leading up to it. "All I can say is I just want the very best for him because he's like my son. He's a part of my family and I adore him. He's the best. He's the best! He's the greatest guy in the world and anybody that knows him will tell you the same thing."
That's actually the case. Pretty much everyone who sees or talks to Lamar Odom tells us he's the nicest person and is perennially in "good spirits." Which is its own miracle, considering.
Talking to Scott Disick in the spring, Odom said he recalled being "scared half to death" while in the hospital, being aware but not being able to communicate. To recover, he was "taking it day by day," he said. "Trust me, I get it," Scott assured him. "I've been there. You know I was in rehab for awhile. I didn't have contact with the world and you've got somebody who's always at the house, watching. It's a blessing...You're not calling any of your old friends?"
"Nah," Odom replied. "That's the hardest part," Disick said. "Just getting rid of all the bad people, you know what I mean?" "Yeah," Odom agreed. "I mean, I can't really take the risk...I can't do that to that girl again of mine."
Used to having all of her decisions about Lamar judged, Khloe's choice to re-file for divorce wasn't an easy one to make.
"She wants babies one day, and he can't give her that life, so she will always support him and be there to help him if needed, but can't wait for him," a source told E! News in July, after the plane incident. "Her heart has always been with him and she gets very sensitive with people's opinions when she decides to move on, because that doesn't mean she didn't try everything."
The source added, "Something happened on Monday and it sent him over the edge. He had been doing really good until that moment but whatever it was set him off."
Odom had been meeting with a sober coach, but those close to him were worried that he was spending time once again with people who had been a bad influence in the past, the "bad people" Scott was referring to.
A couple weeks later, reports started swirling that Odom's family in New York was desperately trying to stage an intervention for him (a concept very familiar to Khloe from years ago), with the help of retired baseball star Darryl Strawberry (who famously battled addiction during his playing career) but he walked right out. "Everyone is terrified by what could happen if Lamar doesn't get help," a source told People. The insider added, "No one tells him no or makes decisions that are best for him. So Lamar is in complete denial. He thinks he can just keep going and treating his body like this with no consequences. He won't listen to anybody."
So that was July.
He spent more time in New York over the summer and, though that's where his son Lamar Jr. and daughter Destiny live, the time he spent hanging out with old friends and away from his extended Kardashian family in L.A. prompted concern that he would take yet another step backward in his recovery.
In August, Odom made a paid appearance at a club in Queens, and we were told he didn't drink, but rather just enjoyed hanging out and taking pictures with fans.
On Aug. 27, however, Odom didn't make it to an expected appearance at a 40 Day/Positive Project festival in NYC that had been organized by a high school friend of the athlete's. The friend, Mook Diamond, told E! News that as far as he know, Odom was healthy and doing well.
Lamar surfaced again Sept. 7 hosting an evening at Don Coqui's restaurant and club in Astoria, Queens, where Diamond presented him with a basketball-related award that he was supposed to have received at the 40 Day festival. A source told us that Odom had a "great night," celebrated with his friends and didn't drink.
He returned to Los Angeles toward the end of September and his kids flew out to visit him. He and Lamar Jr. played basketball and they went to Universal Studios—sightings posts on Instagram were accompanied comments about how good Odom looked and how his fans continued to pray for him.
On a night out to dinner in L.A. with his kids on Oct. 1, he had one vodka cocktail, according to a source, but otherwise he seemed just fine, once again in "good spirits" and just having fun with his kids.
He's in a really good place at the moment, the insider said.
A friend in New York tells E! News that, when Odom's in town, he hangs out with old friends from childhood and visits Rhode Island to see college pals from the University of Rhode Island who still live there. The friend says that there's always alcohol on the table during their nights out, but Odom isn't drinking it.
Lamar Odom is, once again, "doing well." That remains the consensus among his friends—and it's the state of affairs that everyone who thought he was going to die exactly one year ago today continues to hope for.
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