Pat Sajak Opens Up About His Recent Health Crisis: ‘I Think This Must Be Death’

by Angela Andaloro

You may have noticed that Pat Sajak has been missing from Wheel of Fortune. The 73-year-old has been recovering from emergency surgery to repair a blocked intestine.

It’s kept him away from hosting duties on the popular game show, which he has hosted for over 30 years. Now a month into his recovery, Pat has opened up about the procedure and the scary circumstances around his health in an interview with Good Morning America.

Everything was business as usual on the November day when the incident happened. He was getting ready for work when he suddenly began feeling some intense stomach pain. Within two hours, Pat was being wheeled into the emergency procedure.

It would have been even sooner, but doctors had to wait for his blood pressure to rise after it dropped dangerously low. While he’s doing much better today, the sudden and intense pain had him concerned that he was dying. Rather than think of himself, Pat’s mind was on his wife of 30 years, Lesly Sajak, and their 24-year-old daughter, Maggie.

Pat Sajak is returning to Wheel of Fortune after suffering a scary health crisis. A life-threatening illness stopped Pat in his tracks last month. He was rushed into emergency surgery to repair a blocked intestine.

“I’m feelin’ great,” Pat told Good Morning America. “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.”

The incident occurred in November. Pat was going about his usual day, getting ready for work after returning home from a walk with his 24-year-old daughter, Maggie. Suddenly, he was overcome with intense stomach pain.

“I didn’t know what it [was] — but within two and a half hours, I was in surgery,” Pat recalled. He was, as anyone would be, terrified at that moment, not knowing what was happening. “It was that quick and intense.”

The pain was caused by a blocked intestine. The blockage was also impacting his blood pressure, causing it to drop dangerously low. Doctors explained to Pat that they would need to operate immediately because his life was at risk.

“You couldn’t do anything. I was in [a] fetal position, lying on the bed,” he recalled. “They try to give you various drugs for the pain. And none of it — none — was working.” The fact that the medication wasn’t helping made the scary situation even more frightening.

Thankfully, they were able to find something that did help him. “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 said.

Pat wasn’t worried about what would happen to him. He was more concerned about his wife and daughter. “In the background, I could hear my wife and daughter talking,” he said. “It sounded like they were a mile off, but they were right next to me.”

“They were talking to each other,” he continued. “And I remember thinking, not in a morbid way, ‘I think this must be death. This must be what death is like.'” He was extremely concerned for what would happen to them if he didn’t make it.

“Hearing their voices, I thought, ‘Boy, their lives are gonna change now.’ And I felt badly for them,” he revealed. “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.”

While doctors are unsure of what happened to cause the blockage, they were able to resolve it. The surgery was very successful. Pat needed time to recover, but he won’t have to make any serious lifestyle changes.

“I’m as good or bad as new, and that’s great,” Pat joked, now able to make light of the situation. He’s happy it won’t affect his job at Wheel. “I still have my wits about me. They didn’t remove that, so I’ll be selling vowels for a long time.”

Pat is happy to be back at work. Before this health scare, he hadn’t missed a day since he started working at the show. “It felt really bizarre to know that stuff was goin’ on without me. And going on well without me,” he joked.

He’s grateful to Vanna White for taking over in his absence and proud of what she did.

“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,'” he said. “But she’s a team player. And she was very nervous and not comfortable.”