“Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak had a major health scare about a year and a half ago. He had been out taking a walk with his daughter when suddenly he experienced excruciating stomach pain. He hurried to the hospital, where doctors wound up performing emergency surgery for a blocked intestine.
For Sajak’s co-host Vanna White, the news of Sajak’s hospitalization was also majorly frightening. She couldn’t imagine doing “Wheel of Fortune” without him.
“It was horrible, just horrible,” she told “Good Morning America” of the moment when she heard the news about Sajak. “We’ve been together 37 years, and it’s not the same – we are a team. We’re together. It just felt weird with him not being here on the set.”
“You think the worst, because you never know when you’re going in for surgery. You never know what’s going to happen,” White added.
White Had to Fill in for Sajak on ‘Wheel of Fortune’
White had taken over for Sajak once before when Sajak had laryngitis in 1996. But after his 2019 surgery, producers asked her to take over “Wheel of Fortune” for three weeks.
“My first thought was, ‘There’s no way.’ I don’t pay attention to Pat,” White recalled. “I’m busy with my letters and my puzzle board. I mean, I’m hearin’ him, but I don’t really pay that much attention.”
White confessed that filling in for Sajak was petrifying and terrifying to her. But the show must go on, and somehow, she managed to do it. The job required her to multitask like never before, however.
“[You] have to be aware of everything that’s going on, where before all I had to worry about was letters,” she told GMA. “Now I have to carry the whole show, I have to talk to all three players and make sure I get their scores right.”
White Welcomed Sajak’s Return
Three weeks later, Sajak was fully recovered from his surgery and ready to return to “Wheel of Fortune.” White had been spinning the wheel and carrying the show by herself long enough. She said the experience gave her a newfound respect for Sajak.
“Those three weeks without him was very hard. I really missed him,” White said. “I just can’t imagine doing this show without him, you know? And I hope he feels the same with me.”
Meanwhile, today, with White glad to be once again turning letters and Sajak grateful to be alive, “Wheel of Fortune” is back and better than ever.