Pat Sajak Opens Up About Scary Health Crisis: 'I Was Thinking This Must Be Death'
"I still have my wits about me. They didn't remove that, so I'll be selling vowels for a long time," the Wheel of Fortune host said
On Friday, Sajak, 73, sat down with Good Morning America for his first interview since his November surgery, and shared that he is not only doing much better, but is actually feeling “great.”
“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 revealed to GMA‘s Paula Faris.
Recalling the day back in November that he was rushed to the hospital for severe stomach pain, Sajak told GMA that all had been normal. He enjoyed a morning walk with his daughter, Maggie, 24, but when he returned home to get ready for work, he began to feel the “excruciating” pain in his stomach. Within the next two hours, he was in the hospital having surgery.
“It was that quick and that intense,” Sajak said, before explaining that the “horrific” pain he felt was due to an intestinal block. He also revealed that his blood pressure had dramatically fallen — so much so that doctors had to wait for it to go back up before performing surgery.
“You couldn’t do anything. I was in [a] fetal position, lying on 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.”
Sajak continued, “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.’ ”
But the famed game show host said that he wasn’t at all afraid, he just felt bad for his wife, Lesly Sajak, and daughter.
“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,” Sajak added.
Despite the medical scare, the Wheel of Fortune star said his surgery was successful and he can go back to living his normal life — which includes getting back into the studio.
“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 before mentioning that he was grateful to his longtime TV partner, Vanna White, for taking on the wheel while he recovers.
“What a trooper. And I’m not being condescending in any way ’cause it would’ve been well within her rights to say, ‘Wait a minute, this is not what you’re payin’ me for. This is not what I do. And I’d rather not,'” Sajak, who had never missed a day of taping in the 40 years since being the host of the show, said of White. “But she’s a team player. And she was very nervous and not comfortable.”
The game show host also said that while he loves his longtime job, he knows he can’t do it forever.
“As I get older, I now appreciate what this show means,” he said.
“I’ve gotta do this until — you know — I’m doddering,” the host added. “I think I still do it at a high level. But you know, I can’t do it another 40 years, I know that, because I’d be 110, and that would be a record.”
Sajak has been hosting Wheel of Fortune, which is the longest-running syndicated game show in the U.S., since 1982. The show taped its 7,000th episode in May of last year.
Opening up to PEOPLE in October about their “brotherly and sisterly chemistry,” White, 62, revealed that in all the years they’ve been on air together, she and Sajak have never had a single fight in real life.
“We’re one big family,” she told PEOPLE of the Wheel of Fortune cast and crew. “It’s wonderful.”