Rosie O’Donnell Says She’s ‘Really Lucky’ She Survived 'Massive' Heart Attack at Age 50: 'I Should’ve Died'

“It forced me into my body and to be in touch with my body in a way that I never had been,” the actress said of suffering a heart attack over a decade ago

<p>Emma McIntyre/Getty Images</p> Rosie O

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Rosie O'Donnell on May 31, 2023, in Los Angeles.

Rosie O’Donnell is opening up about the “massive” heart attack she suffered over a decade ago.

The actress, 61, appeared on the latest episode of The Best Podcast Ever with hosts Raven-Symoné and Miranda Pearman-Maday and reflected on the moment she was rushed to the emergency room due to the heart attack that she nearly dismissed.

“I should’ve died,” she admitted.

The health scare happened when O’Donnell was 50. She was in a hospital parking lot picking up a friend when a stranger asked her for assistance.

“She said ‘Rosie, will you help me up?’ So I went over and I helped her up and it took a lot longer than I expected,” she recalled. “I got home and my arms were hurting. I thought, ‘That’s funny, it must've been from pushing her up.’ So I went about my business.”

The comedian continued, “I was in my little art studio and my son, who was only young at the time, said to me, ‘Mommy you look like a ghost.’”

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Rosie O'Donnell
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Rosie O'Donnell

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The mom of five explained to one of her sons that she was “so tired” and her arms were hurting. O’Donnell then Googled “women’s heart attack signs” and she had “a few of them” but not enough to worry herself because it didn’t “seem” like a heart attack.

“The truth of the matter is, I had this heart attack on a Monday at 10 a.m.,” the Emmy Award winner said, noting that she still continued with her regular daily routine. “I get home, I can hardly walk upstairs. I take two baby aspirin, I go to sleep, I wake up and my family goes, ‘You have to go to the doctor.’ I waited until the next day. So it had it Monday and on Wednesday I saw a doctor.”

O’Donnell ultimately went to a cardiologist, rather than the emergency room, still assuming that it wasn’t a heart attack and not wanting to take away resources from people who need it. They immediately told her she was having a “massive heart attack” and she was rushed to the ER.

“I was like, ‘Wait, wait, what?!’ I couldn’t believe it,” the former daytime host said. “And then I came to find out that the symptoms for a woman having a heart attack are very different than the symptoms for men having heart attacks. Yet what we see on TV are always men having heart attacks.”

Amanda Edwards/Getty Rosie O'Donnell
Amanda Edwards/Getty Rosie O'Donnell

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At the hospital, doctors learned that O’Donnell had a 100% blockage of the LAD or left anterior descending artery — a type of heart attack alarmingly known as a “widowmaker.” She then had an operation to put in a stent to save her life.

The A League of Their Own actress called herself “really lucky” to have survived the heart attack and said it changed her relationship with her body.

“It forced me into my body and to be in touch with my body in a way that I never had been,” she explained. “It made me aware of feelings. I can kind of dissociate and do the world from my head and just try to use my intellect and not really pay attention to my body, but this forced me to pay attention.”

Additionally, O’Donnell shared on the show that the experience drove her to doing an HBO special educating people on the signs of a heart attack in women in 2015.

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