The Wheel of Fortune host gave his first interview after having emergency surgery in early November to fix an intestinal blockage. While he recovered, Vanna White, his longtime letter-turning companion, stepped in to host the game show, and he returned to the studio to resume work on Dec. 5.
Sajak told Good Morning America he feels “great” — in fact, he’s felt “ridiculously good for several weeks.” He returned to the studio on Dec. 5 and has since resumed production, even spinning the famous wheel “and nothing has popped.”
The 73-year-old TV host detailed what led to him having “completely successful” emergency surgery on Nov. 7. He said he his daughter, Maggie, took a walk early that morning, as they typically do, and he returned home to get ready to head to the studio when he felt a “horrific pain in my stomach.” Within two-and-a-half hours, he was in surgery. “It was that quick and that intense.”
Talking more about what led to the “excruciating” pain that had him “in the fetal position,” he said his intestines became “tangled up” and “they start working against each other, actually killing tissue. And if you don’t deal with it quickly, it will kill enough tissue that it will kill you.”
Sajak admitted it was a life-or-death situation, as his blood pressure fell dramatically. He said Maggie and his wife of 30 years, Lesly, “didn’t know” if he would survive. “You go in and they didn’t know if I’m coming out.”
At one point at the hospital, Sajak felt like he was experiencing death. After initial pain medicines didn’t give relief, he was given something stronger that put him in a different realm, where he was seeing “beautiful pastels” and he could hear his wife and daughter talking, but it seemed like they were miles away.
“I remember thinking: This must be death. This must be what death is like,” he recalled. “All I thought was, hearing their voices, was, boy, their lives are going to change. And I felt badly for them. I didn’t feel badly about dying, I felt badly that they were going to have to deal with the aftermath.”
.@ABC NEWS EXCLUSIVE: @WheelOfFortune host @PatSajak sits down with @paulafaris for his first interview since he had an emergency surgery after getting a “horrific pain” in his stomach due to an intestinal blockage. https://t.co/WLns0yptLe pic.twitter.com/VP13otplSc— Good Morning America (@GMA) December 20, 2019
He added with a laugh, “As it turns out, I was just high.”
Sajak says that the surgery went off without a hitch. While his doctors can’t pinpoint exactly why it the blockage happened, there’s no underlying medical issue, so he hasn’t had to make dramatic health or lifestyle changes.
“I’m as good or bad as new,” he quipped, adding, “I’ll be selling vowels for a long time.”
Sajak also talked about White covering for him while he was on the mend. He noted that in 40 years, he had never missed a taping so it was “bizarre” knowing the show was going on — “and going on well” — without him.
“What a trooper,” he said of White, adding, “and I’m not being condescending in any way. It would have been well within her rights to say, ‘Wait a minute, this is not what you’re paying me for. This is not what I do. I’d rather not.’ But she was a team player. She was very nervous and not comfortable because it’s a role she’s [not used to].”
He went on to call out social media trolls for giving her a hard time over her performance. “I don’t understand why people have to be so nasty,” he said. “She’s out there doing her best. She didn’t ask to be put in that position.”
Sajak said that White, who stepped in for three weeks of hosting duties, ultimately became comfortable in the role, making him “a little nervous.” He joked that she brought in homemade cupcakes on his first day back to work and “I did have someone else taste mine first before I ate it.”
He also said his health scare has had him thinking about the legacy of the show — and his future on it.
“As I get older ... I now appreciate more than ever what this show means. And I’m not going to make too much of it — it’s a game show, I understand,” he said. “But it’s very evocative. People identify this show with raising families, with watching it with their grandmother.”
Sajak said he’ll probably keep hosting for “a couple years,” explaining, “I’d rather leave a couple years too early than a couple years too late. I don’t have a date in mind, but two, three [years].”
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
Want daily pop culture news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Entertainment & Lifestyle’s newsletter.