Jimmy Kimmel took a rare opportunity to share a personal anecdote during last night’s opening monologue. The Jimmy Kimmel Live! host was emotional as he opened up about finding out more than a week ago that his son was born with a heart defect, and that he and his family were lucky to have access to great medical care, which saved his son’s life.
On Friday, April 21, Kimmel’s wife, Molly, gave birth to their new son. “It was an easy delivery,” Kimmel told his audience last night, “six pushes, he was out. And he appeared to be a normal, healthy baby. Until about three hours after he was born.”
Kimmel then proceeded to tell the harrowing story of when they realized something was wrong:
“A very attentive nurse at Cedar Sinai Hospital… was checking him out and heard a murmur in his heart, which is common for newborn babies. But she also noticed that he was a bit purple, which is not common. So she asked me to come with her. My wife and I assumed it would be nothing. Our daughter had a heart murmur too, and we didn’t notice that he wasn’t the color that he was supposed to be.”
Kimmel’s son was moved to the neo-natal ICU, where tests were performed.
“The room started to fill up and more doctors and nurses and equipment started coming in. And they determined he wasn’t getting enough oxygen into his blood, which as far I understand — or understood at the time — was most likely one of two things, either his heart or his lungs. And you hope it’s the lungs. Sometimes they have fluid in them after delivery and it’s potentially a minor thing. But they did an x-ray and his lungs were fine, which meant his heart wasn’t. So now more doctors and nurses and equipment come in and it’s a terrifying thing. They did an echocardiogram, which is a sonogram of the heart. They found out Billy was born with a heart disease. Something called Tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia. It’s hard to explain. Basically the pulmonary valve was completely blocked and he has a hole in the wall between the left and right sides of his heart.”
Kimmel and his wife met a surgeon and decided to move their son to another hospital for surgery to fix the defect.
“On Monday morning, Dr. Starnes opened his chest and fixed one of 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. They didn’t do everything. He will need to do another open heart surgery in three to six months to close those holes. But they want to wait until he’s bigger, and he’ll have a third non-invasive procedure sometime maybe in his early teens to replace the valve he has now.”
Kimmel finished the tale with a bit of levity. “Poor kid,” he said, “not only did he get a bad heart, but he got my face. Six days after open heart surgery, we got to bring him home, which is amazing. He is doing great. He’s eating. He’s sleeping. He peed on his mother today while she was changing his diaper. He’s doing all the things he’s supposed to do.”
Kimmel thanked Children’s Hospital, friends, family, and the “family” that produces his show, for all their support. “And I hate being… I hate even having to say it. Even that son of a bitch Matt Damon sent flowers.”
Kimmel noted that he had access to the best doctors and nurses, and his son survived what would otherwise have been a fatal series of events. He didn’t let the opportunity pass to make that point clear:
“We were brought up to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, but until a few years ago millions and millions of us had no access to health insurance at all. You know, before 2014 if you were born with congenital heart disease, like my son was, there was a chance you would never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition. And if your parents didn’t have medical insurance, you might not live long enough even to 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. I think that’s something that whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, or something else, we all agree on that, right? I mean, we do. Whatever your party, whatever you believe, whoever you support, we need to make sure that the people who are supposed to represent us, people who are meeting about this right now in Washington, understand that very clearly. Let’s stop with the nonsense. This isn’t football. There are no teams. We are the team. It’s the United States. Don’t let their partisan squabbles divide us on something that every decent person wants. We need to take care of each other. I saw a lot of families there and no parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life. It just shouldn’t happen. Not here.”