Joel McHale is opening up about the heartbreaking moment he found out his son Edward “Eddie” Roy had two holes in his heart.
The comedian and his wife, Sarah, welcomed Eddie in 2005, before they learned about the newborn’s diagnosis when he was just 2 weeks old.
McHale spoke candidly about what he was doing when Sarah called to let him know the news during an episode of the “Meditative Story” podcast.
He shared of when he discovered Eddie’s diagnosis, “I’m parked outside of an audition. There’s a script in my hand and I’m about to go in when my wife Sarah calls me. Sarah is at the pediatrician with our 2-week-old son Eddie. We’re in that parenting phase where it feels like you’re at a doctor every other day — but right away I hear something very different in her voice.”
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Sarah explained how the doctor said that he heard “some sort of heart murmur” and that they needed to take Eddie to a cardiac specialist right away.
McHale went into the audition, thinking, “Well if I get this job I’ll have enough money to pay for whatever is going on with Eddie.”
He also said how at the time, Eddie was struggling with breastfeeding so the couple had to feed him “with an eyedropper like he was a little bird.” They were originally told Eddie would have to wait until he was five months old and was bigger and stronger for surgery.
“It seems like all we do is feed him because they said you had to feed him every four hours, around the clock, but the feedings take two hours from beginning to end,” he told the podcast.
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McHale, who was hosting “The Soup” at the time, ended up feeding Eddie during the night so Sarah could get some sleep, as she was with him all day.
“I know how hard the days are for Sarah and I think if she can just get four hours, maybe six hours of sleep at night, that will be a gigantic gift from God,” he said.
However, he said he’d get “these terrible dizzy spells” at work, sharing: “I would be on camera with the room spinning.
“I would sometimes half crawl from my couch to the bed like some sort of gorilla. I would sometimes have to steady myself against the hallway walls. When I would go to work… I would crawl in my desk and sleep for 45 minutes.”
“Then,” he went on, “the camera turns off and I go back to this little baby who’s got two holes in his heart.”
McHale continued to say how Eddie still wasn’t gaining any weight after about six weeks, so the cardiologist decided to move forward with the surgery, which made the star feel “relieved and scared.”
He explained the “not natural” feeling of handing over their newborn to a doctor, telling the podcast: “It doesn’t make any sense. And we realize, ‘Well that’s all we can do.’ It’s a terrible feeling of helplessness. And we begin to wait. And we wait.”
McHale revealed Eddie spent about five days on the pediatric cardiology recovery floor, where he and Sarah met others going through similar situations.
“Before the surgery, our friends and family would say stuff like, ‘We’re so sorry this is happening to you. I’m so sorry,’” he said. “Here in the pediatric cardiology floor, other parents say, and I’m not joking, ‘Oh we were hoping that our kid had your kid’s problem.’ And they say it kindly and warmly.”
“After months of feeling like we were unlucky and had a terrible challenge, I’m realizing that we were the lucky ones,” he continued. “It seems so weird because it does seem kind of like, luck, one elevator goes up and another one goes down.”
The surgery ended up being a success, however it was later discovered that Eddie, now 16, was severely dyslexic, had ADHD, and was on the autism spectrum.
“I think people always go, ‘Why me? Why is this happening to me?'” McHale, who said he bonded with Jimmy Kimmel over the diagnosis as his son Billy had congenital heart disease, shared. “I learned now the phrase should be, ‘Why wouldn’t it happen to you? It happens to everybody else. Nobody is special and everyone is special.'”