Jimmy Kimmel Opens Up About Newborn Son’s Congenital Heart Defect

Here are the facts about the heart condition—tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia.

Jimmy Kimmel Opens Up About Newborn Son’s Congenital Heart Defect

Jimmy Kimmel tearfully revealed that his newborn son was born with a congenital heart defect that required open-heart surgery.

During his opening monologue, Kimmel explained that on April 21, his wife, Molly McNearney gave birth to their second child—a son named William or ‘Billy.’ Only hours after the delivery, a nurse heard a murmur in the baby’s heart, which can be normal in newborns. However, the nurse also noticed the baby was a purplish color, which is not common. 

Doctors and nurses attended to the newborn and determined that he was not getting enough oxygen into his blood. After an X-ray and echocardiogram, a sonogram of the heart, doctors were able to make a diagnosis, he explained. 

“They found that Billy was born with, um, a heart disease,” Kimmel explained on his late-night talk show. “Uh, something called tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia.”

“It's hard to explain,” Kimmel said as his voice cracked. “Basically, the pulmonary valve was completely blocked. And he has a hole in the wall between the left and right sides of his heart.”

Billy was transported to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to have surgery on one of the two defects in his heart. In three to six months, Billy will have another surgery to close up the remaining holes. And he’ll have a third procedure in his early teens to replace the valve he has now, Kimmel explained.

Kimmel said that six days after Billy’s open-heart surgery, he was able to go home—prompting huge audience applause.

What is tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia?
Tetralogy of Fallot involves a combination of four different heart abnormalities, all of which affect the heart’s structure, including a hole between the heart’s two lower chambers. In short: there isn’t enough oxygen-blood flow coming out of the heart to the rest of the body. Tetralogy of Fallot affects boys and girls equally, occurring in about 5 out of every 10,000 babies. The defect is typically treated with open-heart surgery.

The condition that Billy has is called tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia. This occurs when one of the heart valves that come out of the baby’s heart doesn’t properly form, according to the Mayo Clinic. With this condition, blood is unable travel from the heart to the lungs to pick up oxygen. Instead, blood flows to the lungs via other routes in the heart and arteries. These routes within the heart and arteries are critical to the baby’s growth in the womb and usually close up after birth.

Dr. Oz sheds light on the condition
Coincidentally, cardiothoracic surgeon and talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz was a guest on Kimmel’s show that night. Dr. Oz shared a video of a heart and shed some light on the congenital heart defect. The video showed a human heart where a wall divides the two lower chambers.

“When that wall is missing, because that muscle between the two main chambers is not formed …  these tubes—the blue tube takes dirty blood to the lungs, the red tube takes clean blood to your brain and everywhere else—they no longer can discriminate between what blood is coming into them,” Dr. Oz explained. When the dirty and clean blood mix, it can cause the baby to turn blood, he said.

Oz went on to say that baby Billy “should grow up completely normal with no limitations,” which made the audience burst into applause. 

Medically reviewed in September 2018.

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