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'Wheel of Fortune' host Pat Sajak opens up about his health scare

"Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajak is inducted

"Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajak is inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame on April 9, 2018, in Las Vegas.  Credit: Getty Images / Ethan Miller

"Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajak gave details about his recent abdominal surgery during a TV interview Friday, saying that at one point he briefly thought he might have died, then added, "as it turned out, I was just high" from pain killers. 

Sajak, 73, told "Good Morning America's" Paula Faris that his health scare — which forced him off the show for a month, while longtime colleague and world's most famous letter-turner Vanna White took his place — was sudden and unexpected, happening after an early morning walk with his daughter, Maggie. "I had this horrific pain in my stomach and ... within two-and-a-half hours, I was in surgery. I mean, it was that quick and that intense." 

He then described a type of intestinal torsion — which left untreated can be fatal — in which parts of the intestine "start working against each other, actually killing tissue. And if you don’t deal with it quickly, it'll kill enough tissue that it'll kill you.”

He said painkillers were administered at the hospital, each ineffective, until "they gave me something ... but suddenly I wasn't thinking about the pain, I just had these beautiful pastels and lovely faces coming out of [them.]" They were, he said, the faces of his wife and daughter.

"I remember thinking, not in a maudlin way, I think ... this must be what death is like, and all I thought was, hearing their voices thought, 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.”

Of White, he said she did a "great job."

"What a trouper and I’m not being condescending in any way 'cause it would have been well within her rights to say, ‘Wait a minute, this is not what you’re paying me for. And this is not what I do. And 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. 

Faris asked about his future on the show he has hosted since 1983 and on which — until now — he said he has "never missed a taping." 

“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. 

Sajak underwent surgery on Nov. 7, then returned to the production on Dec. 5.

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