Jimmy Kimmel’s wife, Molly McNearney, is opening up about the couple’s 7-month-old son Billy’s heart condition and what inspired the family to utilize their platform to share Billy’s story to take a stand on affordable healthcare.
In an emotional piece for The Hollywood Reporter, McNearney, 39, recalled the moment she knew that Billy had a health issue. Three hours after the Jimmy Kimmel Live! producer and co-head writer gave birth, a nurse asked McNearney a series of questions and then took Billy out of the room, asking Kimmel, 50, to come along.
“Jimmy didn’t seem concerned and they left the room. Twenty minutes went by, then 30 minutes, 40 minutes. I started to get worried,” McNearney wrote. “Then a doctor I’d never seen before came in the room — and I knew. He sat down on the bed and put his hand on my knee and I just burst into tears. ‘Where is he?’ I said. ‘Where is the baby?’ The doctor told me there’s an issue, it’s either in his heart or his lung. From that moment on, it became a whirlwind of medical jargon and information I knew I would have to understand.”
McNearney and the late-night host, who welcomed Billy, their second child together, this past year, decided to move the infant to the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for open-heart surgery when he was just 3 days old. Soon after, days before Kimmel returned to work, he expressed to McNearney his desire to share Billy’s story on the show.
“That Monday, Billy was finally home and Jimmy was back at work,” she continued. “Alhough I was on maternity leave, I was still getting all of my work emails, and I didn’t get the one with the monologue for that night. I emailed Jimmy and he said, ‘I just want you to watch.’ So there I am, in my living room breastfeeding Billy with my mom beside me, and we’re watching. I sobbed through the entire thing. I couldn’t believe the strength that it took to tell that story a week after it happened. He didn’t have to do that. Our family has excellent health care; he had nothing to gain from that. He did it for the other people whom we met in the hospital. He came home that night and I just hugged him and I wouldn’t let go.”
Although the family has received an outpouring of support since deciding to go public with their story, they have also faced backlash. “People [have attacked] us for politicizing what happened to our baby, which to me is truly crazy,” she explained. “We took a personal experience and we shared it with the world, and then it just so happened that this was going on while people were trying to take health care away from children like ours.”
McNearney and Kimmel are both passionate about families in America having access to healthcare, which ultimately inspired them to go public with their personal hardships. “I don’t necessarily like that everyone knows what’s going on with the health of my child,” she admitted. “And it’s scary to make yourself vulnerable the way we have, but the encouragement that we’re helping other people far outweighs my fears about our lack of privacy. If we were to do this all over again and someone said, ‘You would have an opportunity to take a perfectly healthy baby boy,’ I would take the one we got because I think it helped a lot of families. We didn’t anticipate we would be in this position, but we were, and we made the most of it.”
Since revealing his son’s heart condition, Kimmel has utilized his late-night show as a platform to continue advocating for affordable healthcare for children. As previously reported, on Monday, December 4, Billy had a second successful heart surgery. While speaking to Us Weekly exclusively in September, Kimmel said that his son is “doing well” and “seems to be strong.”