The 73-year-old host had never missed a taping until November when a sudden pain in his stomach quickly turned into an emergency surgery to correct an intestinal block. Now he’s made a full recovery and is back in the studio doing what he does best.
“I’ve actually felt ridiculously good for several weeks. I’ve been back in the studio spinning the wheel and nothing has popped,” the Wheel of Fortune host told “Good Morning America.”
The star recalled the day he went under the knife as being relatively normal. He woke up and took a walk with his 24-year-old daughter, Maggie, but things took a turn when he got home and prepared for work. He suddenly felt an intense pain in his stomach and was soon rushed to the hospital. Within two hours he was in surgery.
“You couldn’t do anything. I was in the fetal position, lying in the bed,” he said. “They try to give you various drugs for the pain. And none of it was working. And then they gave me something, I couldn’t even tell you the name of it, but suddenly, I wasn’t thinking about the pain. I just had these beautiful pastels and lovely faces coming out of it.”
The star noted that he wasn’t scared for his life, but was worried about his family should that have been his final moment on Earth.
“In the background, I could hear my wife and daughter talking. It sounded like they were a mile off, but they were right next to me. They were talking to each other. And I remember thinking, not in a morbid way, ‘I think this must be death. This must be what death is like,’“ he said. “Hearing their voices, I thought, ‘Boy, their lives are gonna change now.’ And I felt badly for them. I didn’t feel badly about dying. I felt badly that they were gonna have to deal with the aftermath. As it turned out, I was just high.”
Fortunately, doctors considered the surgery a success. However, because they’re not sure what caused the blockage, he was not ordered to adjust his lifestyle. As a result, he’s back at work after a brief hiatus in which his longtime co-star, Vanna White, took over his job.
“I’m as good or bad as new, and that’s great. I still have my wits about me. They didn’t remove that, so I’ll be selling vowels for a long time,” he said.
Vanna White, filled in for regular ‘Wheel of Fortune’ host, Pat Sajak, after he had to undergo an emergency surgery.
As for White taking over his duties, Sajak praised her for agreeing to fill in while he was away.
“What a trooper. And I’m not being condescending in any way because it would have been well within her rights to say, ‘Wait a minute, this is not what you’re paying me for. This is not what I do. And I’d rather not,’” he explained. “But she’s a team player. And she was very nervous and not comfortable.”
The star, who has led the show since 1982 for more than 7,000 episodes, confessed that the incident as well as getting older have helped him appreciate his position on the show and what it means for people. However, he understands that he simply can’t do it forever.
“I’m not getting any younger,” he said when asked how long he’ll remain the host. “A couple of years?”
He continued: “What I’m really sensitive about is… I’d rather leave a couple of years too early than a couple of years too late.”
When pressed, Sajak estimated that he expects he’ll retire within two or three years.