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An emotional Jimmy Kimmel discusses newborn son’s heart disease, makes passionate health-care plea

Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel makes a tearful plea over his son's heart condition on his show on May 1. (Video: Amber Ferguson/The Washington Post)

Jimmy Kimmel opened his late-night show Monday on a very serious note.

“I have a story to tell about something that happened to our family last week,” he said on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” as he started to get choked up. “I’m 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 I’m telling this, don’t get too upset. Leave that to me.”

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 defect and would immediately require surgery.

They took Billy in an ambulance to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where he had open heart surgery. “It was the longest three hours of my life,” Kimmel tearfully told the audience. But the procedure went well, and six days later, they were able to take Billy home.

Kimmel thanked the doctors and nurses, along with his colleagues for being so supportive, and encouraged viewers to donate to the hospital. He threw in a few jokes (“I hate to say it, but even that son of a bitch Matt Damon sent flowers.”) and assured his wife that he’s definitely getting a vasectomy.

Then he switched gears, turning serious again. “President Trump last month proposed a $6 billion cut in funding to the National Institute of Health, and thank God our congressmen made a deal last night to not go along with that. They actually increased funding by $2 billion, and I applaud them for doing that,” Kimmel said. “Because more than 40 percent of the people who would have been affected by those cuts to the National Institute of Health are children.”

“We were brought up to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, but until a few years ago, millions and millions of us had no access to health insurance at all,” he continued. “Before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you would never be able to get health insurance because you had a preexisting condition. You were born with a preexisting condition, and if your parents didn’t have medical insurance, you might not even live long enough to get denied because of a preexisting condition.”

Will the GOP health care bill cover people with preexisting conditions? (Video: Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

A tearful Jimmy Kimmel said his newborn has a congenital heart defect. Here’s how it works.

He ended with a plea for both sides of the aisle in the health-care debate. “If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make. I think that’s something now, whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, or something else, we all agree on that, right?” Kimmel said, as the audience applauded. “Whatever your party, whatever you believe, whoever you support, we need to make sure that people who are supposed to represent us — and people who are meeting about this right now in Washington — understand that very clearly. Let’s stop with the nonsense. This isn’t football, there are no teams. We are the team, it’s the United States. Don’t let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants. We need to care of each other.”

Kimmel got choked up again. “I saw a lot of families there, and no parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life,” he said. “It just shouldn’t happen. Not here.”

“I promise I’m not going to cry for the rest of the show,” he concluded. 

After the episode aired, ABC confirmed that Kimmel will be on paternity leave for the rest of the week; Will Arnett, Anthony Anderson, Kristen Bell and David Spade will step in as guest hosts.

On Tuesday, former President Barack Obama weighed in:

As did Kimmel’s wife:

Read more:

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