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Wheel of Fortune’s Pat Sajak Opens Up About ‘Horrific’ Near-Fatal Illness: ‘This Must Be Death’

In the nearly 40 years that he has hosted Wheel of Fortune, Pat Sajak had never missed a day of work … until a near-fatal health scare sent him into emergency surgery.

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Wheel of Fortune’s Pat Sajak Opens Up About Emergency Surgery
Pat Sajak Patrick Lewis/Starpix/Shutterstock

In an ABC News interview that aired on Good Morning America on Friday, December 20, the 73-year-old described the scary saga — revealing that he experienced a “horrific pain” in his stomach one morning last month after returning home from his daily walk with his daughter, Maggie. “I didn’t know what it [was], but within two and a half hours, I was in surgery,” he said. “It was that quick and intense.”

Doctors diagnosed Sajak with a blocked intestine and a precipitous drop in blood pressure, and the host told ABC News he could have died without emergency surgery.

“You couldn’t do anything. I was in [a] fetal position, lying on the bed,” he added. “They try to give you various drugs for the pain. And none of it — none — 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.”

He continued: “In the background, I could hear my wife [Lesly] and daughter talking. It sounded like they were a mile off, but they were right next to me,” he said. “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.’ … 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.”

During his recuperation, Sajak spoke with longtime Wheel of Fortune costar Vanna White, who previously told Us Weekly that she was nervous hosting the game show during his absence. “It felt really bizarre to know that stuff was goin‘ on without me. And going on well without me,” Sajak quipped to ABC News. “We did have a chance to talk a little bit. But there’s not much I could tell her. She knows the way the show works. I just tried to be encouraging and help out on that level. But she had fun with it.”

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Now, however, the Daytime Emmy Award winner is on the mend and resuming hosting duties. “I’m feelin’ great,” he said. “I’ve actually felt ridiculously good for several weeks. I’ve been back in the studio actually, doing shows. Even spinning the wheel and, you know, nothing has popped. So I think it’s OK. … 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.”

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