The Tragic Truth About Jimmy Kimmel's Son Billy's Health Issues

In April 2017, Jimmy Kimmel and his wife, Molly McNearney, had their second child together. Billy's birth turned their world upside-down. Their son was born with a congenital heart defect known as tetralogy of Fallot (FOT) with pulmonary atresia. Billy has undergone three open-heart surgeries but is thankfully doing well. That's partly thanks to the quality of care he received. Kimmel knows he's lucky to have been able to afford the expensive treatments, and Billy motivated the talk show host to use his voice to fight for healthcare access.

But Kimmel knows that political action takes time. So, in the meantime, he has become involved in several medical-related causes, encouraging his followers to donate to institutions that seek to find a cure for different diseases. In September 2023, he and his family supported Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. "Today our family sold lemonade in memory of Alex and her courageous fight against childhood cancer," he wrote in an Instagram post.

In November 2021, Kimmel also paid tribute to a colleague who had died from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ASL) by asking people to contribute. "Please make a donation to help the brilliant women and men working to end this dreadful disease," he wrote on Instagram. Kimmel rarely celebrates Billy's birthdays without pointing out he wouldn't be here without costly medical interventions. "Please support families who need medical care," he captioned the April 2022 Instagram post. Billy's journey has been far from easy, but Kimmel hopes it won't have been in vain.

Billy Kimmel's heart defect went undiagnosed in utero

Molly McNearney had an uneventful pregnancy. No tests revealed anything abnormal and no doctors detected anything wrong. "It caught them by surprise," Dr. Vaughn A. Starnes explained on ABC's "Good Morning America" in June 2024. "They thought Billy was going to be perfectly normal." That remained true even after birth. On April 21, 2017, McNearney and Jimmy Kimmel welcomed a seemingly healthy baby boy. The birth was uncomplicated — Billy came out after six pushes, and everyone was happy about the health of the newborn.

McNearney was taken to the recovery room, where she and Kimmel introduced Billy to his 2-year-old sister, Jane. "We were happy; everything was good," Kimmel said in a "Jimmy Kimmel Live" monologue. It wasn't until about three hours later that a nurse noticed Billy was a bit purplish and that he had a heart murmur. Billy was taken to the NICU, where doctors later identified he had been born with tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia, a severe condition that can affect five different parts of the heart.

Three days later, Billy underwent a three-hour open-heart surgery to fix one of his two defects. "That has got to be the most scary, terrifying thing that a parent goes through," Starnes, who performed the operation, said on "GMA." Six days after the successful operation, McNearney and Kimmel brought Billy home. "He's doing great. He's eating, he's sleeping. He peed on his mother today," Kimmel said at the time.

Jimmy Kimmel sought to raise awareness with Shaun White's help

Just two weeks after his son's birth, Jimmy Kimmel hosted snowboarder Shaun White in an effort to raise awareness about Billy's rare condition. That's because the three-time Olympic gold medalist was also born with tetralogy of Fallot. Like Billy, White also underwent open-heart surgeries as an infant, a fact that was brought to Kimmel's attention right after Billy's diagnosis. "And I thought, 'Oh, no, my son's going to be a snowboarder!'" Kimmel joked on "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

It turns out that Kimmel's situation was also brought to White's attention, which made him emotional. "I have the same exact same photo with the tubes and the whatnot," he said. White shared that most of his baby clothes collection consisted of socks. "The only thing she could dress me in was socks because she couldn't touch me," he detailed. 

For most parents, it would be natural to become overly protective of their kid under these circumstances, but White's didn't. "They really let me find my own limitations," he said. For Kimmel, learning about White's upbringing was an eye-opening experience. "It makes me think about it a little bit differently," he said. When Kimmel hosted White again in 2022, he handed him a retirement gift from Billy: a shark figurine he stole from his sister's room. It was also a thank-you gift for the snowboard and outfit White gave Billy back in 2017 — perhaps to help him fulfill his father's prophecy.

Billy Kimmel's early care allowed him to have a largely normal infancy

Thanks to the care he received, Jimmy Kimmel's son went on to develop like a regular baby. At three months old, Billy was impressing everyone with his advanced skills — sort of. "He's juggling. He's translating Flaubert from French into English. He's really an amazing kid," Kimmel told The Hollywood Reporter in August 2017. "No — he smiles. That's pretty much it. He is very interested in ceiling fans."

So Billy was like any other 3-month-old, which is more than he and Molly McNearney could have hoped for. And they didn't take it for granted. Kimmel and his wife celebrated every milestone with extra gratitude. "Young Billy is six months old today. He is healthy and happy and we are all very grateful for your prayers, good wishes, thoughts and support of @ChildrensLA," he wrote in an October 2017 Instagram post.

Kimmel always thanked someone whenever he celebrated Billy throughout his first year. "A yr ago today, God gave us this tough little boy. Today, we thank the nurses & doctors at @CedarsSinai & @ChildrensLA who saved his life," he captioned an April 2018 Instagram post. But Kimmel isn't the only one in awe. Even after decades, Dr. Vaughn A. Starnes is still amazed to watch the kids he operated on go on to thrive in life. "It's the greatest joy that I have," he said in the "Good Morning America" interview. "After 30 years ... it never gets old."

Jimmy Kimmel's son has had two more surgeries

At seven months old, Jimmy Kimmel's son had his second open-heart surgery. And at seven years old, Billy underwent his third and hopefully last. In May 2024, Kimmel shared a photo of his boy in a hospital bed (seen above) paired with an update. "We went into this experience with a lot of optimism and nearly as much fear and came out with a new valve inside a happy, healthy kid," he captioned the Instagram post.

All three surgeries were successful, a feat Kimmel has long attributed to the expertise and dedication of the Children's Hospital Los Angeles staff. To show their gratitude, Kimmel and Billy have become involved with the hospital to help draw attention to their campaigns. For his seventh birthday, Billy asked for donations. "Billy is asking friends 'to give $7 because I'm seven to help kids in the hospital.' (He also wants a spy kit) His goal is 'to raise $100 to help sick kids,'" Kimmel captioned an April 2024 Instagram post.

Kimmel and Molly McNearney were later brought on to serve as honorary co-chairs at the hospital's October 2024 gala. The talk show host has also participated in events and videos, helping the institution raise millions. But Billy isn't doing too shabby himself. As of this writing, the fundraising site set up for his birthday had raised about $80,000. "This boy is seven years old because of you. Molly and I are overwhelmed by your generous donations to @childrensla," he wrote on Instagram

Jimmy Kimmel has used his experience to promote healthcare access

Jimmy Kimmel is well aware Billy's medical treatment was a privilege, and he has been drawing from his experience to advocate for accessible healthcare. Billy's diagnosis came amid then-President Donald Trump's attempts to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, and Kimmel didn't stay quiet. "No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child's life," he argued in his "Jimmy Kimmel Live" monologue.

Kimmel continued to use Billy's issues to fight for coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, a protection guaranteed by the ACA. Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, Kimmel made his hatred for Trump crystal clear, urging people to vote against him by featuring a video of Billy's journey on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." "This is what it looks like to have a 'pre-existing' condition," the video reads before showing photos of Billy hooked to machines.

When Billy was a baby, Kimmel rarely shared an update without urging his followers to fight for healthcare. "Thanks for all your love & support and please remind your Congresspeople that every kid deserves the care Billy got," he captioned a July 2017 Instagram post. His pleas weren't limited to the ACA. Kimmel also supported the CHIP program, whose funding ran out in September 2017. "Health care for millions of kids is threatened. Call (202) 225-3121 to tell Congress to #FundCHIPNow!" he wrote on Instagram. Kudos to Kimmel for turning a personal tragedy into a public service!