Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel and wife Molly McNearney’s son William “Billy” John, three months old, had open heart surgery three days after his birth in April.
Kimmel’s son will need two more open heart surgeries but is “doing great,” the star revealed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
“Young Billy made his first visit to our office today. He’s juggling. He’s translating Flaubert from French into English,” Kimmel joked. “No — he smiles. That’s pretty much it. He is very interested in ceiling fans. He likes those a lot. I could get him to pay the same amount for Netflix just to watch ceiling fans.”
Kimmel said he and McNearney “didn’t know anything about heart surgery” before Billy was born.
“I felt like I was in an episode of a television show where something terrible was happening,” he said. “There were a lot of people scrambling around. At that point, I knew there was nothing I could do. They were all very good about keeping me abreast of what was happening, but I wanted them to just focus on him and not worry about me.”
“The surgery itself took less time than we were told it would — about two hours,” Kimmel revealed. “We were surprised when the doctor walked in and told us it went well.”
Kimmel first addressed his son’s birth and congenital heart disease in a monologue on May 1 on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
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He said after his son was born, Billy was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at L.A.’s Cedars-Sinai Hospital, where Kimmel learned that his newborn son had a heart condition known as tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia.
It’s a condition that affects the normal flow of blood through the heart, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The condition can reduce the amount of oxygen that flows to the rest of the body.
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In Billy’s case, the pulmonary valve was completely blocked and there was a hole in the wall between the right and left sides of his heart, Kimmel said.
But the host also struck a serious tone in his monologue, noting that U.S. President Donald Trump proposed a $6 billion cut in funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He made a plea about affordable health care in the U.S.
“More than 40 per cent of the people who have been affected by those cuts to the NIH are children, and it would have a major impact on a lot of great places including Children’s Hospital in L.A.,” Kimmel said.
He went on to say that, before 2014, if you were born with a heart disease like Billy was, “there’s a chance you would never have been able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition.”
Kimmel returned to the topic of health care with THR. “I don’t see what the difference between health care and education is. Every kid should have a right to an education. We don’t seem to have a problem with paying for that,” Kimmel said.
Kimmel also said that he’d be open to having Trump on his show to discuss health care.
“I would like to see, as a father and a person who prides himself on speaking the truth, what he thinks,” he said. “If I were his next door neighbour and I didn’t have health insurance for my child, I find it hard to believe he would ignore that.”
—With files from Jesse Ferreras