"They just picked her up," Gabor's husband, Prince Frederic von Anhalt, told PEOPLE shortly after the ambulance arrived. "They may have to take her leg from the knee down."
He said further, "She wanted to stay home and have a holiday. They wanted to do this before the holiday, but now the doctors have forced us."
He added, "She is strong."
Gabor's spokesman, John Blanchette, explained: "She developed a lesion on the leg that had swollen a while back and caused her to go to the hospital for treatment, but it has not responded. In fact, it has increased in size, and the doctors have wanted to operate for several days."
The wound had grown from just over an inch to about a foot in length, said Blanchette.
Echoing von Anhalt, the spokesman also said, "Frederic and Zsa Zsa asked if they could spend New Year's at home, and [they] shared champagne and caviar. The doctors came to the house today [Sunday], and when they unwrapped the bandages, [they saw that] the wound had festered and they were afraid of gangrene developing, which would be life-threatening."
With von Anhalt accompanying her, Gabor, 93, was taken to the medical facility at 6:30 p.m. and was prepped for surgery.
"She will lose the lower half of her leg below the knee," said Blanchette. "It's a dangerous operation, but the upside is that, if successful, she will remain her same old feisty self for a few more years."
Six-Month Health BattleSince last summer, the Hungarian-born beauty – who has used a wheelchair since being paralyzed in a 2002 automobile accident, then had a stroke in 2005 – has increasingly suffered a series of health issues.
On July 18, 2010, she was rushed to the UCLA Medical Center after falling out of bed and breaking several bones, including her right hip. Within five days she fell into critical condition and was not responding to those around her, although by Aug. 11 Gabor grew stronger and was sent home.
Two days later, however, she was taken back to the hospital due to complications from the hip-replacement, and on Aug. 15 Gabor requested last rites from a Catholic priest.
When she subsequently refused a liver operation, it was decided she would spend her final days at home – though on Aug. 31, said to be in pain and unconscious, she was again rushed back to the hospital – and again returned home a few days later.
In mid-November, her husband told PEOPLE that Gabor was resting at home, where she had a hospital bed and was hooked up to medication, including antibiotics for the swelling in her leg. Two nurses were monitoring the situation, he said.
Reporting by CYNTHIA WANG