LOS ANGELES — A tearful Jimmy Kimmel turned his show's monologue into an emotional recounting of his newborn son's open-heart surgery — and a plea that all American families get the life-saving medical care they need.
"It was a scary story and before I go into it, I want you to know it has a happy ending," Kimmel assured ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" studio audience Monday as he detailed how his son's routine birth April 21 suddenly turned frightening.
Several hours after his wife, Molly, gave birth to William John, a "very attentive" nurse at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center alerted the couple and doctors to the baby's purple-ish color and an apparent heart murmur, the host said.
The baby's lack of oxygen was either due to a lung problem or heart disease, Kimmel said, and it was found to be his heart.
"It's a very terrifying thing," he said. He was surrounded at the hospital by very worried-looking people, "kind of like right now," he told the audience, one of the jokes he managed despite choking up and having to pause at times.
A test showed his son had a birth defect called tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia — a hole in the wall separating the right and left sides of the heart and a blocked pulmonary valve, Kimmel said. The baby, nicknamed Billy, was taken by ambulance to Children's Hospital of Los Angeles to undergo surgery to open the valve.
"The longest three hours of my life," Kimmel said.
Billy will have another open-heart surgery within six months to repair the hole and then a third procedure when he's a young teen, but he came home six days after the surgery and is "doing great," Kimmel said. He shared photos of him with his wife, their 2-year-old daughter Jane and a smiling Billy.
After thanking by name the nurses, doctors and staff at the two hospitals, along with his colleagues and friends — "Even that (expletive) Matt Damon sent flowers," Kimmel said of his faux rival — the comedian then gave an impassioned speech on health care.
He criticized President Donald Trump's proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health and praised Congress for instead calling for increased funding.
"If your baby is going to die and it doesn't have to, it shouldn't matter how much money you make. ... Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?" he said.
Washington politicians meeting on health care need to "understand that very clearly," he said. Partisan squabbles shouldn't divide American on something "every decent person wants. We need to take care of each other."
Former President Barack Obama took to social media, retweeting Kimmel and touting the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.
"Well said, Jimmy. That's exactly why we fought so hard for the ACA, and why we need to protect it for kids like Billy. And congratulations," he tweeted.
Kimmel said he would skip the rest of this week's shows to be with his family while guest hosts take his place.
He was joined Monday by Dr. Mehmet Oz, who was a previously scheduled guest but jumped in to offer an illustrated description of Billy Kimmel's heart problem. Also on the show at Kimmel's request was Shaun White, the Olympic gold medal snowboarder who discussed overcoming the same heart defect as Kimmel's son.