Jimmy Kimmel Live! was unaccounted for on the air last week, leaving viewers to wonder about the whereabouts of the host of the late night TV show. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel returned to his show last night and delivered his most personal and emotional monologue yet, filling viewers in on the reason behind his absence. And if you don’t feel like crying at your desk/local Starbucks, we suggest you turn away right now.
Kimmel’s wife Molly McNearney gave birth to the couple’s second child in April, a boy named William (Billy) Kimmel. Following what appeared to be a straight forward and successful labor, a nurse noticed that Kimmel’s newborn son had a heart murmur and was turning purple. The baby was examined by nurses and doctors, who eventually diagnosed Billy with tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresi (we’ll leave that to Jimmy to explain). Only a few days after being born, Billy underwent open heart surgery.
Amidst tears, Kimmel told his live audience that the surgeon “opened Billy’s chest and fixed one of the two defects in his heart. He went in there with a scalpel and did some kind of magic that I couldn’t even begin to explain. He opened the valve, and the operation was a success. It was the longest three hours of my life.”
Kimmel, voice breaking, went on to explain that his son will need two more surgeries to fix his heart condition and used his platform to urge President Trump to not repeal Obamacare, with the insurance policy making life-saving treatments and surgeries like the one Billy underwent available for all families. “You know, before 2014 if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you’d never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition,” said Kimmel. “You were born with a pre-existing condition and if your parents didn’t have medical insurance you might not live long enough to even get denied because of a pre-existing condition. If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.”
The talk show host also gave a tearful thanks to the people who supported Jimmy and his wife during the terrifying ordeal, including family, friends and co-workers. “Even that son of a bitch Matt Damon sent flowers,” Kimmel joked.
The rest of the episode stayed on theme with the monologue. Kimmel’s first guest, heart surgeon Dr. Oz, explained the heart condition and talked about what it’s like being on the medical side of life-saving surgeries.
Kimmel also interviewed Olympic gold medalist Shaun White, who was born with the same heart defect as Billy. White also underwent surgery when he was only days old, completing three separate heart surgeries by the time he was in his teens.
White’s appearance on the show was uplifting for Kimmel, and likely any other parent whose child is born with a similar heart defect, proving that with access to health care, children with tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresi can still lead normal lives and maybe even become an Olympian.