Talk show host Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue on Monday night (5/1) described the birth of his son and the discovery that the baby had a congenital defect that necessitated open-heart surgery. His emotional outpouring included an all-encompassing gratitude list, thanking everyone from Congress to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Kimmel had to fight back tears as he talked about how his son, Billy, was taken to Children’s Hospital L.A. by ambulance. His doctor had just diagnosed the child as having tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia, and there wasn’t a second to lose. On April 24, the baby underwent a three-hour surgery that successfully repaired a hole in his heart.
“This is some place, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles,” said Kimmel during his 13-minute monologue. “I hope you never have to go there, but if you do you’ll see so many kids from so many financial backgrounds being cared for so well and with so much compassion.”
Before the show’s posting of the web address of the hospital’s donation page on the screen, he said, “I’ve been supporting Children’s Hospital for years. I had no idea we’d ever wind up there. And if you’d like to support the work they do, the information is there at the bottom of your screen. Please do.”
He added, “We were on the Costco Floor, which is considered a good omen because it’s my favorite store. Costco sponsors the second floor and thanks to all the companies who support Children’s Hospital, including my company, Disney ABC, which supports them financially.”
In the afternoon, the day after the show, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles made a statement thanking Kimmel, and posting the YouTube clip on its website.
“On Monday, May 1, a TV-show host known for jokes and pranks did something most comedians try to avoid—he made America cry,” the hospital stated. “More than 13 million people have already watched the clip online, as Jimmy Kimmel described the emotional experience of watching his newborn son diagnosed with a life-threatening heart defect, and ultimately being saved by the surgeons and caregivers at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.”
Kimmel’s “thank yous” didn’t come without political controversy as he began to discuss President Trump’s proposal to cut funds to the National Institute of Health.
“President Trump last month proposed a $6 billion cut in funding to the National Institute[s] of Health,” he said. “And thank God our congressmen made a deal last night not to go along with that. They actually increased funding by $2 billion, and I applaud them for doing that.”
While in previous monologues in recent years, Obamacare was easy fodder for Kimmel to joke about, on this night, he went on to praise the Affordable Care Act.
“We were brought up to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, but until a few years ago millions and millions of us had no access to health insurance at all,” he said.
“You know, before 2014 if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you’d never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition. You were born with a pre-existing condition and if your parents didn’t have medical insurance you might not live long enough to even get denied because of a pre-existing condition. If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.”
He finished by urging Americans to get past party affiliation and look out for one another.
“Whatever your party, whatever you believe, whoever you support, we need to make sure that the people who are supposed to represent us, people who are meeting about this right now in Washington, understand that very clearly,” Kimmel said.
“Let’s stop with the nonsense. This isn’t football. There are no teams. We are the team. It’s the United States. Don’t let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants. We need to take care of each other.”
Not all reactions to Kimmel’s plea for government support of universal healthcare were positive, however.
Perhaps one of the most poignant responses came from someone who shared that her ministry is about saving babies globally. Meredith Toering, International Director of the Morning Star Foundation, wrote in a blog piece, “Hey Jimmy Kimmel… Do You Have Any Idea How Right You Are?” published Tuesday:
I don’t have children of my own, but I run a foster home in China for a houseful of babies who call me Mama — children, all abandoned, all with Brave warrior hearts. Our little tribe fighting so hard, all with congenital heart defects of their own.
It was his [Kimmel’s] words that followed — the words that came next — that grew a lump in my throat and made the tears well.
“We need to take care of each other,” he said, as he swallowed back tears.
“No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life. It just shouldn’t happen.”
But the thing is? It does.
Along with writing about her own heart-wrenching story about helping a Chinese family, Toering posted several touching baby photos.
That Chinese father, being forced to make that decision that Kimmel rightly said no parent should ever have to make — that father sparked a movement that we call our Love Project — and it is my very heartbeat.
Working with local hospitals to identify at risk families. Equipping them — and partnering with them to provide the financial means for medical care. Arranging the medical care. Standing with and for these brave families — who want nothing more than to simply remain a family.
Orphan prevention. Family preservation. This is it… this — right here.
I grasped his hands and told him that whatever it took — whatever the cost — we would find a way…
True religion is this — caring for orphans and widows in their distress. We are called to stand for them — for the orphan. For the widow. And always? For the family… so they never ever have to choose.
Ann Voskamp, who posted the ministry director’s response to Kimmel’s monologue on her own website, said of Toering: “Her heart beats hard for heart babies around the world, and as the International Director of Morning Star, she not only advocates for surgeries for orphans with complex congenital heart defects, she champions the Love Project that financially provides heart surgeries for babies of families who could never afford heart surgeries — so that families can be kept intact and babies can LIVE!”