What would you do if your child was sick and wasn’t getting better no matter what you tried? Most parents would bring their child straight to see a doctor to get treatment.
When one late-night talk show host’s son was diagnosed with a life-threatening birth defect, that’s exactly what he did. Since he can afford health insurance, he didn’t have to worry about not being able to save his son. But tragically, millions of parents around the country can’t do the same for their own sick kids…
When late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel found out his wife, Molly McNearney, was pregnant, the couple was thrilled about the new addition to their family. Kimmel already has two kids from his first marriage and a 3-year-old daughter with Molly but was excited to grow his family.
The Bad News
Once Molly went into labor, the couple couldn’t wait to finally meet their baby boy for the first time. On April 21, 2017, Kimmel and his wife welcomed a baby boy into the world and named him William “Billy” Kimmel. However, the good news was overshadowed by some very bad news…
While examining Billy, doctors discovered the newborn baby had a bluish tint to his skin, lips, and nail beds, which was a sign of something potentially serious. Shortly after birth, Billy was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect.
“My wife was in bed relaxing when a very attentive nurse at Cedars-Sinai… was checking him out and heard a murmur in his heart, which is common with newborn babies,” Kimmel said. “But she also noticed he was a bit purple, which is not common…”
Doctors told Kimmel that his newborn son had a heart defect called the tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia. In order to save Billy’s life and correct the condition, Billy would have to undergo heart surgery as soon as possible.
The Heart Deffect
The tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia is a serious condition where the heart has five major abnormalities, including a ventricular septal defect, an overriding aorta, a thickened right ventricle, complete pulmonary obstruction, and abnormal pulmonary arteries…
Telling The World
“Basically, the pulmonary valve was completely blocked and he has a hole in the wall between the left and right sides of his heart,” Kimmel explained to the world when he shared his son’s diagnosis on his talk show, Jimmy Kimmel Live.
The First Surgery
Doctors told the terrified parents that Billy needed surgery to correct the defect. They also explained that Billy might need additional surgeries within the first few years of his life. Three days after Billy was born, he underwent his first surgery…
The Worst Is Over
Thankfully, the surgery went well and Kimmel and Molly were able to take Billy home from the hospital a few days later. Yet the experience was traumatizing for the parents, who had never experienced anything nearly as terrifying with their other kids.
Safe at Home
Once Kimmel had Billy safely at home, he couldn’t help but think how lucky he was to have health insurance and enough money to pay for any treatment his son could possibly need. At the same time, he couldn’t help but think about the millions of parents that aren’t as lucky and him and his family…
Back To Work
In early May, just a few weeks after Billy was born and underwent heart surgery, Kimmel went back to work, but he couldn’t pretend everything was the same. When he started the show his first night back, Kimmel made an emotional speech about his son.
Kimmel’s speech then turned political and spoke about how no child should be denied treatment because of insurance or money issues. “If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make,” Kimmel said. “I think that’s something that, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right,” the host added…
When the speech aired on TV, Molly was watching from their home and had no idea what her husband was about to do. “I sobbed through the entire thing. I couldn’t believe the strength that it took to tell that story a week after it happened,” Molly said.
The Public’s Reaction
From that night on the couple couldn’t go anywhere without someone coming up to them to thank Kimmel for standing up for what was right and bringing attention to the issue. “We took a personal experience and we shared it with the world,” Molly added. “And then it just so happened that this was going on while people were trying to take health care away from children like ours…”
The Second Surgery
But Billy’s fight wasn’t over just yet. He still needed to have a second surgery, which was originally scheduled for October but had to be rescheduled because he had a cold. At just 8 months old, Billy went under the knife for the second time in December.
Billy Goes To Work
The surgery thankfully went well and Billy was back home within a week. When Kimmel returned back to work after taking some time off to be with his son, he was more fired up than ever about protecting sick kids who don’t have insurance. But this time, Kimmel wasn’t alone. This time, Billy was in his arms. “I was out last week because this guy had heart surgery. But look, he’s fine, everybody…”
Kimmel then started talking about CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covered around 9 million American kids until it expired in October. CHIP helps parents who make too much money for Medicaid but still can’t afford coverage for their kids.
“So this happened because Congress, about 72 days ago, failed to approve funding for CHIP since the first time it was created two decades ago,” Kimmel said. “This is literally a life-and-death program for American kids. It’s always had bipartisan support. But this year, they let the money for it expire while they work on getting tax cuts for their billionaire and millionaire donors…”
Call To Action
“I don’t know about you, I’ve had enough of this. I don’t know what could be more disgusting than putting a tax cut that mostly goes to rich people ahead of the lives of children. Why hasn’t CHIP been funded already?” Kimmel said. Kimmel then urged viewers to call their representative and ask them to fund CHIP immediately.
Reacting To Criticism
“I want you to know: I am politicizing my son’s health problems because I have to. My family has health insurance. We don’t have to worry about this,” Kimmel said in response criticism. “But other people do, so you can shove your disgusting comments where your doctor won’t be giving you a prostate exam once they take your health-care benefits away.”