Sprawled on the floor with eyes closed and hand resting on her torso, Madonna looked exhausted and frail as she took a short break from rehearsals ahead of her world tour.
The photo, part of a set the pop legend posted to her 18million fans on Instagram ten days ago, was accompanied by the caption: ‘The Calm Before The Storm…’
Just four days later, last Saturday, she was found unresponsive in her New York apartment. Emergency services rushed the 64-year-old to intensive care where she was intubated and put on a ventilator.
Her manager revealed on Wednesday – after what insiders claim was a fraught and emotional Zoom meeting between her team – that the star had been suffering from a ‘serious bacterial infection’ and that her forthcoming tour was officially postponed.
Madonna’s inner circle are refusing to give any more detail on what caused her hospitalisation, but there is speculation that it could have been due to sepsis – a life-threatening reaction to an infection.
Madonna spotted out with her PA and a dancer going to see the Karl Lagerfeld exhibit in New York last Friday
Madonna shared this image ten days ago with the caption ‘the calm before the storm’
Although the singer is now back at her home and in a stable condition, friends fear she may have to spend weeks, if not months, recovering from the trauma.
One well-placed source told the Daily Mail: ‘For a short while there was real concern. It was the wait before the doctors found out what was causing the problem. But once they’d identified it, we were reassured the treatment would work.’
Meanwhile, an unnamed family member told how they feared she would die.
The relative told Mail Online: ‘For the past couple of days, no one really knew which direction this was going to turn, and her family was preparing for the worst.’
One of Madonna’s six children, her 26-year-old daughter Lourdes Leon, hinted that her mother was on the mend when on Wednesday night, just hours after the illness was revealed, she posted a picture of herself on Instagram plugging a trainer brand while wearing a revealing corset and low-waisted-jeans.
While it isn’t known when the photograph was taken, fans took the post as a sign that at least her mother’s condition was surely no longer critical.
Madonna’s close friend Rosie O’Donnell, the chat show host and actress who starred with the singer in the 1992 movie A League Of Their Own, assured fans that she was going to recover, writing on her own Instagram page: ‘She’s feeling good.’
The strange and troubling illness comes after sources in Madonna’s extensive tour team revealed that the Like A Virgin singer had been putting rehearsals for her Celebration Tour – so-called because it celebrates 40 years at the top of the business – ‘before anything else’.
Madonna’s daughter Lourdes Leon, 26, is keeping things normal amid tough times, as she posted a picture of herself to Instagram Stories
The show must go on: Madonna has worked through illness before but friends say it may take months before she is recovered
Some are convinced that a characteristic determination to give her fans an unparalleled show meant she missed warning signs regarding her health.
One source says of her days spent at the Nassau Coliseum, an indoor concert arena 50 miles from her New York apartment on Long Island: ‘She was giving it her all. If Madonna wants to do something, she makes sure she does it properly. That’s her first rule. She wanted to thank her fans for their support during the last 40 years – and while she is determined not to retire, it could have been the last time some of them would see her perform.’
On Saturday, as news of her condition reached her family, those close to the singer rushed to be with her.
Lourdes flew in from Paris where she had attended a party hosted by Vans trainers on the banks of the Seine, and headed straight for her mother’s bedside.
Meanwhile, Madonna’s eldest son Rocco, 22, had just completed a week-long motorbike trip with two friends in Transylvania, Romania. He wrote of his holiday: ‘What a crazy place and a crazy trip. First enduro tour [a motorbike race] and hopefully the beginning of many.’ He tagged in his influencer pal Tommaso Gilardoni.
It appears that the trip finished last Saturday – the same day his mother was found unresponsive at her New York apartment.
Rocco, who spends most of his time in the UK with his father, the movie director Guy Ritchie, made a dash to the US to see her too and on Wednesday – when the news became public – he was seen walking outside her home, which overlooks the city’s Central Park, wearing a striped shirt and navy trousers with a bag slung over his shoulder.
Madonna’s eldest adopted child David Banda, 17, was also spotted nearby looking stoic, wearing a brown short-sleeved top and jeans, and listening to music.
David Banda, 17, spotted arriving back home while Madonna is in the hospital in New York
The Daily Mail is told those children have been supporting the star’s other three children, Mercy, 17, and ten-year-old twins Stella and Estere. The hospital drama prompted Madonna’s management team to hold a crisis meeting on Zoom last Sunday. Many on the call had worked with her for several decades and were deeply upset to learn of her illness.
With the star unable to take the decision herself, they had to choose to put off her much-anticipated tour.
They were concerned that the opening show of the 84-night extravaganza in Vancouver on July 15 was just three weeks away. One source said: ‘The simple fact is that nobody knew at this point how it was all going to end. Madonna was very ill and in these situations there are always fears for the worst.
‘Realising that someone is in intensive care is scary, so there was a lot of worry and upset. These people had been her close friends for some time.
‘But they had to be fair on fans, and with the tour getting ever closer, they took the decision to postpone pretty much immediately. So plans were put in motion.
‘Even if she was to recover quickly, she would be very behind in her rehearsing schedule and nobody wanted to put her under any pressure.’
Happily, however, sources close to the team said that within 24 hours of postponing the tour they were told that Madonna was out of the woods and on the mend – much to their relief.
They briefly thought they might not have to postpone all of the tour dates after all, but by late on Sunday night, they realised they had no option due to the length of time it would take her to recover.
Despite this, they were still insistent on not releasing any statement and instead kept the hospital dash a secret from her hundreds of thousands of fans who had bought tickets to see her on tour.
It took three more days for Madonna’s team to share the news, with manager Guy Oseary writing on Wednesday: ‘Her health is improving, however she is still under medical care. A full recovery is expected.
‘At this time we will need to pause all commitments, which includes the tour. We will share more details as soon as we have them, including a new start date for the tour and for rescheduled shows.’
The tour was due to continue across North America until October, before a four-night run at London’s O2 Arena, with two further shows at the venue in December.
The London dates sold out within minutes at the start of February, with fans promised a show packed full of her greatest hits.
In her last Instagram post, Madonna gave fans an idea of what to expect at the live shows. As well as the photo of herself lying on the floor, the collection featured some more upbeat snaps, including one saucy shot of her donning a police officer’s hat which she had teamed with a pair of fishnet tights.
On another she was seen sitting by a piano wearing a pair of khaki shorts, while in another she was seen from behind wearing a smart black suit with longer ginger hair billowing behind her.
Madonna’s forthcoming concerts come almost four years after the launch of her Madame X tour, during which she had to cancel several shows due to knee and hip injuries.
Announcing the new tour earlier this year, she said: ‘I am excited to explore as many songs as possible in hopes to give my fans the show they have been waiting for.’
Last year she insisted that she wasn’t ready to retire, saying in an interview: ‘I don’t even think about my age, to tell you the truth. I just keep going.
‘Even when I performed almost my entire tour in agony, I had no cartilage left in my right hip, and everyone kept saying, “You gotta stop, you gotta stop”. I said, “I will not stop. I will go until the wheels fall off”.’
However, with her 65th birthday coming up in August, social media is awash with fans calling for her to hang up her microphone for the sake of her health.
But sources close to Madonna cite male musicians such as Sir Mick Jagger, Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Elton John, all of whom are still performing – albeit with a little less panache – as evidence that the pop icon may just have a few years left gyrating to the beat and swing of her unrivalled set list.