Bret Michaels, Casey James

Kristian Dowling/FOX/PictureGroup

I'm confused. Bret Michaels sure did look good on American Idol—for a guy who almost died recently. Was he really sick in the first place?
—Larry, Boise, via the Answer B!tch inbox

Lee DeWyze beats Crystal Bowersox, and this is the conspiracy theory you're focusing on? That Michaels maybe didn't almost bleed all over his own brain until he passed on to that great backstage orgy in the sky?

Then again, Michaels does look pretty spry for someone who was staring down the Grim Reaper just a month ago. Here's why:

Those bandanas may be, for all we know, lode bearing bandanas needed to keep his nervous system intact until the next round of surgery.

So maybe we should do a little digging, with the assistance of some qualified medical professionals. Michaels is suffering from several dangerous conditions right now, but let's start with his brain.

In April, things were looking pretty scary for Michaels.

He was in the hospital for a potentially fatal brain hemorrhage, which was causing bleeding around his brain. There's very little room in there for blood to accumulate without potentially choking the brain, so this was very serious.

Michaels rallied enough to be released from the hospital, only to suffer a fresh stroke around a week ago. The stroke made the singer's hands and face go numb. Upon further tests, doctors discovered yet another problem: A hole in Michaels's heart.

And oh: Michaels has diabetes. And there was an appendectomy in there somewhere too.

Anyway, it sounds like enough medical mess that would leave most people bedridden. But neurologists and other specialists tell me that the condition that threatened Michaels the most—the bleeding in the brain—has a shorter recovery period than you may think.

"The blood can get cleared out fairly quickly, certainly within a few days," says neurologist Ezriel E. Kornel, partner at Brain and Spine Surgeons of New York. "If there's nothing more irritating the brain, it can recover completely."

Not that it happens that often.

"It is unusual to have a massive subarachnoid hemorrhage and recover as quickly and completely as Bret Michaels did," says, owner of SWAN Rehab, a Phoenix, Ariz., physical therapy office that specializes in brain injuries.

"I suspect that he got to the emergency room quickly and was treated immediately. He was also in the best of hands...In other words, everything came together just right so that he could perform on American Idol."

As for Michaels's heart, the hole has, apparently, been there since he was born, without anyone knowing it. It's not something that cardiologists routinely test for, nor is something that would necessarily cause much of an effect—until Michaels's warning stroke.

He plans to have surgery for that—but won't stop working in the meantime. Doctors chalk this attitude up to something they call "psychological hardiness"—a mental makeup that thrives on stress and enables patients to recover more quickly.

Whatever the source of his strength, it's working for Michaels; he plans to head back on tour this summer—lode-bearing bandanas in tow.

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