Jimmy Kimmel’s voice cracked as he talkedÂ about the âterrifyingâ moments after his son’s birth, when doctors discovered the newborn had a heart defect and needed immediate surgery.
âThey found that Billy was born with, um, a heart disease,âÂ KimmelÂ said through tears Monday night on his late-night ABC show. âUh â¦ something called Tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia.â
âIt’s hard to explain,â heÂ said. âBasically, the pulmonary valve was completely blocked. And he has a hole in the wall between the left and right sides of his heart.â
The âJimmy Kimmel Liveâ host had opened hisÂ show on a very seriousÂ note, telling the studio audience and viewers at home:Â âI have a story to tell about something that happened to our family last week.â He started to get choked up immediately and then apologized, saying: âIâm sorry. You know, I try not to get emotional, but it was a scary story. And before I go into it, I want you to know it has a happy ending, okay? So when Iâm telling this, donât get too upset. Leave that to me.â
Kimmel went on to say that his wife, Molly, gave birth to their second child on April 21, a boy named Billy. Everything seemed normal at first, until a few hours later, when a nurse discovered that he had a heart murmur and noticed his skin was a bit purple. Kimmel described the terror of watching a group of very worried-looking doctors and nurses try to figure out what was wrong with his newborn son. Eventually, they told him that Billy was born with a heart disease and would immediately require surgery.
Tetralogy of Fallot is a rare congenital heartÂ condition characterized by four main problems, including a hole in the wall betweenÂ the lower chambers of the heart, changing the normal blood flow to the body,Â according to the American Heart Association. The National Institutes of Health says the condition occurs in about five out of every 10,000 babies.
The condition includes pulmonary valve stenosis, in which the pulmonary valve is constricted, which then restricts blood flow to the lungs; overriding aorta, in which the aorta is mispositioned; right ventricular hypertrophy,Â which causes theÂ right ventricle’s muscular wallÂ to thicken; and ventricular septal defect, characterized by the hole between the lower chambers, according to the Mayo Clinic.
On Monday night, Mehmet Oz, a heart surgeonÂ who was already scheduled to appear on Kimmel’s show, explained more about the heart defect affecting theÂ newborn.
Oz showed an animation of a human heart in which a wall separates the two lower chambers. âWhen that wall is missing, because that muscleÂ between the two main chambers is not formed, but because of that, these tubes â the blue tube takes dirty blood to the lungs, the red tube takes clean blood to your brain and everywhere else â they no longer can discriminate between what blood is coming into them,â he said.
When the dirty blood mixes with the clean blood, Oz said, the baby can turn blue.
And that’s exactly what happened in the moments after Kimmel’s son was born.
âHe appeared to be a normal, healthy baby until about three hours after he was born,â Kimmel said of Billy.Â âWe were out of the delivery room; we moved to the recovery room. Our whole family was there. We introduced him to his 2Â½-year-old sister. She was cute with him. We were happy; everything was good. My wife was in bed relaxing, when a very attentive nurse â¦ was checking him out and heard a murmur in his heart, which is common with newborn babies. But she also noticed he was a bit purple, which is not common.Â My wife and I assumed it would be nothing; our daughter had a heart murmur, too.
But Kimmel said doctors and nurses soon started trickling into the hospital room.Â âThey determined he wasn’t getting enough oxygen into his blood,â he said of the doctors. âThey did an X-ray and determined his lungs were fine, which meant his heart wasn’t.â
The newborn was taken by ambulance toÂ Childrenâs Hospital Los Angeles, where he underwent open-heart surgery to repair âone of the two defects in his heart,â Kimmel said.
Kimmel said the surgeon âdid some kind of magic I couldn’t even begin to explain.â
âThe operation was a success. It was the longest three hours of my life, but it was a success,â he said, as the crowd clapped and cheered. âThey didn’t do everything; he’ll have to have another open-heart surgery in three to six months to close those holes, but they wanted to wait until he’s bigger. And then he’ll have a third, hopefully noninvasive procedure, sometime maybe in his early teens, to replace the valve he has now.â
Kimmel then showed viewers several pictures of the newborn,Â immediately launchingÂ back into his jokes.
âPoor kid: Not only did he get a bad heart, he got my face,â he said.
âThis is the best,â Kimmel said about a photo of him and his son sleeping. âIt’s me in a coma.â
Kimmel said he and his wife were able to bring their son home six days after surgery.Â âHe’s doing great,â he said. âHe’s eating, he’s sleeping â he peed on his mother today while she was changing his diaper. He’s doing all the things that he is supposed to do.â
Monday’s show also featured superstar snowboarder Shaun White, who told Kimmel that he, too, suffered from Tetralogy of Fallot as an infant.