Jimmy Kimmel: Everything Oscars host has said about son’s health after multiple heart surgeries
This year, Jimmy Kimmel will take centre stage as host of the 2023 Oscars. It will mark the comedian’s third time hosting the awards ceremony.
Ever since his nightly hour-long show Jimmy Kimmel Live debuted on ABC in January 2003, Kimmel has been a mainstay in late-night television. And, for nearly a decade, the Emmy winner has shared bits of his personal life with his audience, including details about his relationship with his wife, Molly McNearny, and their two children – Jane, eight, and Billy, five.
Kimmel is also a father to 31-year-old artist Katie Kimmel and 29-year-old actor Kevin Kimmel, who he shares with ex-wife Gina Kimmel.
In 2017, Jimmy Kimmel captured hearts when he shared an emotional monologue about his then-newborn son Billy’s life-saving open heart surgery. During his Live show, he recounted the health crisis that he and his wife were faced with just days after their son, William “Billy” John Kimmel, was born.
On 21 April, Kimmel said his wife Molly gave birth to their son in what was an “easy delivery”.
“He appeared to be a normal, healthy baby, until about three hours after he was born. We were out of the delivery room, we moved to the recovery room. Our whole family was there. We were happy, everything was good,” he said.
Kimmel then recalled a “very attentive nurse” named Nanush was checking over their son when she heard a heart murmur and noticed he was turning purple. Kimmel, with his son Billy, were instructed to follow her to the neonatal ICU where a doctor determined the baby wasn’t getting enough oxygen into his blood.
“They did an X-ray and his lungs were fine which meant his heart wasn’t,” Kimmel said. “It’s a terrifying thing – my wife is back in the recovery room, she has no idea what’s going on and I’m standing in the middle of a lot of very worried-looking people, kind of like right now,” he joked to the audience.
The doctors did an echocardiogram, which is a sonogram on the heart, and found that Billy was born with a rare congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) with pulmonary atresia – in which there was a hole in the wall separating the two sides of his heart.
At that moment, their son was taken in an ambulance to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where he underwent open heart surgery at just three days old. Kimmel explained to the audience that Billy would need another open heart surgery in a few months to close the holes in his heart, followed by a third sometime in the future.
Shortly after delivering his monologue, Kimmel’s wife Molly – who is a co-head writer on Jimmy Kimmel Live – shared a photo of her husband and a smiling Billy in the hospital and thanked them both for their bravery.
“I am thankful to love and be loved by these two brave guys,” she tweeted. “Both criers.”
I am thankful to love and be loved by these two brave guys. Both criers. pic.twitter.com/NL0C3K3Q4E
— Molly McNearney (@mollymcnearney) May 2, 2017
Seven months later, Kimmel brought baby Billy onto Jimmy Kimmel Live just after having his second heart surgery.
Reflecting on his son’s health journey, the late-night host admitted to Oprah Winfrey in 2018 that he and Molly had brief feelings of detachment to their son out of fear that he wouldn’t overcome his heart condition.
“There were secrets we kept from each other that we revealed only after the second surgery. The biggest one was that, I think subconsciously, we didn’t want to get too close to the baby because we didn’t know what was going to happen,” Kimmel said in an interview with O, The Oprah Magazine at the time. “I don’t know if that’s right or wrong or common or uncommon. But when I told her I was feeling that way, she said: ‘Oh I’m so happy you said that because I was feeling that way too, and I didn’t want to express it.’”
In 2019, Kimmel gave fans an update on his son Billy, who was then two years old and obsessed with Spider-Man. “He thinks he’s Spider-Man now, so we’re safe from crime,” he told Us Weekly. "He wears the costume all the time. He’s shooting webs all over the house. He goes to preschool as his secret identity and then turns into Spider-Man when he comes home.”
Ahead of the 2020 US presidential election, Kimmel took the opportunity to encourage Americans to vote by detailing his own experience with his then-three-year-old son’s health battles.
"I want to bring us back to focus on something we can’t afford to forget, and that is health care,” he said during a segment on Jimmy Kimmel Live. “The vast majority of this country believes that health insurance should cover Americans with pre-existing conditions.”
During the episode, the host played a video compiled by his wife Molly, which detailed the complications their son Billy has faced since birth. At one point, the clip showed Billy as an infant in the NICU, as well as footage from some of his more than 60 doctor appointments over three years. “This is what it looks like to have a ‘pre-existing’ condition,” the video read.
The video ended on a happy note showing Billy now, dancing with his older sister Jane and kissing his mother. “Americans take care of one another,” the clip concluded. “Vote with your heart.”
As his son turned five years old last April, Kimmel celebrated the special occasion by thanking the doctors and nurses who saved Billy’s life in an Instagram post.
“Happy fifth birthday to our little nut,” Kimmel wrote. “We are eternally grateful to the brilliant doctors and nurses at @ChildrensLA & @CedarsSinai for saving Billy’s life and to those of you whose donations, prayers and positive thoughts meant everything. Please support families who need medical care.”
Most recently, the comedian told Entertainment Tonight in October that his son is “doing great” after overcoming two open heart surgeries. “He’s perfectly normal – I shouldn’t say he’s normal, he’s not a normal kid, he’s a weird kid, but his heart is fine,” he joked. “He’s a little screwy, that’s all we’re worried about right now. He’s doing great. He still has to have another surgery.”
When asked how Billy compares to other five-year-olds, Kimmel responded that he is no different.
“People – I think they’re very hesitant to ask me about him, and they’re like ‘Is he okay?’ And he’s honestly no different physically than any of the other kids,” he explained. “He can play sports – he doesn’t want to, but he can. He’s always dancing and jumping around, and we wrestle all the time.”
“He’s fine, except for what’s going on with his heart, he’s perfectly fine.”
The 2023 Oscars will take place on Sunday 12 February at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.