Rosie Admits She Ignored Symptoms of Near-Fatal Heart Attack

Rosie O'Donnell talks about her heart attack Thursday on "The Dr. Oz Show" (Photo: Sony Pictures Television)

Rosie O’Donnell says she almost died from the heart attack she suffered in August because she ignored the symptoms and did not seek immediate medical help.

O’Donnell, 50, is now speaking out about her heart emergency in an effort to help women who may experience the same symptoms and, like her, ignore them at great risk to their lives.

“I’m just lucky that I survived it, truthfully,” O’Donnell said last week, in an interview on a local TV station in Philadelphia. “I waited more than 24 hours to go to the doctor, because I kept thinking, ‘This can’t be a heart attack. A heart attack would feel like Mike Tyson punched you in the chest, right?’ No, it felt like the flu,” she said, according to this story.

The comedian and former talk-show host went into even greater detail about her ordeal when she sat down with Dr. Mehmet Oz, the New York cardiologist who hosts “The Dr. Oz Show”.

“It’s a very soulful conversation, very emotional,” Oz said on Monday when he talked to a group of reporters in a telephone news conference conducted to promote the O’Donnell interview, which is set to air Thursday on his show (check local listings). “She talks about how she almost died because she ignored these [symptoms] — shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea – all this stuff. And then one of her kids was saying, ‘You look like you’re a ghost. You’re so pale …’ She was putting ice packs on herself to cool herself down and she was trying to reconcile all these crazy symptoms.

“And in the middle of all that, there’s a whispering voice that says, ‘Take an aspirin,’ because she was in [an aspirin] commercial when she was a kid. And she took the aspirin and, in the course, of our interview it became very emotional when she talked about how she ignored these [symptoms], what that meant about how she viewed her life.

“She ignored them because she didn’t want to bother the family with having to deal with her issues,” Dr. Oz said.

On the show, Rosie reveals what happened when she finally went to the hospital. “She went to the hospital with a pretty typical set of signs and was evaluated and immediately diagnosed as having a heart attack,” Dr. Oz said. “So she was actually in the throes of having a heart attack. She was rushed to the angiogram suite where they take pictures of what the muscles look like and in the course of that she was identified [as having] something called a ‘widowmaker’ lesion.”

She then had an arterial stent installed “to open up that blocked area. And we go through that in great detail on the show,” Dr. Oz said. “We actually have the images. I’m going to show everybody exactly what happened [and] why this picture looks so alarming to us.”

“Rosie’s a very insightful person,” Dr. Oz said. “And the reason she decided to come out and talk about this heart thing was with an earnest desire to help people not die. … [O’Donnell today] is the face of heart disease for women in America and she will probably be for the rest of her life. Sometimes these moments occur that provide an obvious teachable moment and this is it.”

Check local listings for “The Dr. Oz Show.”

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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