George Gray, the announcer on CBS’ “The Price Is Right” actually told a cardiac surgeon to come on down Friday — to perform a quadruple bypass operation after he suffered multiple heart attacks days earlier.
Gray’s wife, Brittney, told USA TODAY that he woke up last Monday with what he thought was indigestion but it progressed to severe chest pain and weakness in his arms.
“If this isn’t a heart attack, I don’t know what it is,” he told her.
The paramedics arrived a few minutes later to their place in Tucson, Arizona, where he’s been staying during the production hiatus forced by the COVID-19 pandemic, “and hooked him up to an EKG “and then just looked at each other and went, ‘Yep’ “ she recalled.
“Are you allowed to tell me I’m having a heart attack?” George asked.
“Yeah,” they confirmed. “It’s a big one.”
Due to restrictions on visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brittney wasn’t allowed to accompany him to the hospital’s catheter lab, where they attempted to install a stent in his left anterior descending artery, which the largest of the three arteries supplying blood to the heart.
“It was 100% blocked,” Brittney said, adding that a second artery was 60% blocked.
Minutes later, the stent failed, filling with plaque after the doctor left the cath lab.
“He basically had a second heart attack right there,” she said. “The doctors were luckily able to rush back in and stent the stent.”
In the recovery room, the doctors told George that he would need bypass surgery and an operation was scheduled for Friday.
“He recovered and he was getting stronger, but as he was being wheeled into the operating room, he started having a heart attack right on the operating table,” Brittney recalled in an interview from outside his hospital room Saturday evening.
Attempting to calm him, the anesthesiologist fibbed and said he was just giving George some oxygen. “But they actually knocked him out and hurried to get him open,” she said. “And instead of just one bypass, they did a quadruple bypass.”
Gray, who just turned 53 in March, was not an obvious candidate for a heart attack, either, she said. “He has low cholesterol. He ran a mile the day before. No blood pressure problems, nothing. The doctor said this is most likely genetic. There are no signs beforehand – until the heart attack.”
He is one of the 3% of U.S. men and 2% of U.S. women who have heart attacks between ages 40 and 59, according to the American Heart Association.
She added, “His was very obvious but the fact is, it’s not always obvious. He says that if you have symptoms or something genetic or you know of other factors, get checked.”
Two of the heart attacks were “widowmakers,” referring to a severe blockage in the left anterior descending artery. A blockage as severe as Gray’s starves the heart muscle of oxygen, triggering an abnormal heart rhythm, possibly leading to cardiac arrest, a situation where seconds mean the difference between survival and death, according to the University of Michigan’s Frankel Cardiovascular Center website.
He’s not the only entertainer to suffer a widowmaker in recent years: Comedian Kevin Smith had one in 2018 and “The Biggest Loser” fitness trainer Bob Harper suffered one while at the gym the previous year.
Brittney said the circumstances surrounding George’s heart attack actually could have been much worse.
“We were supposed to be in Thailand for our one-year wedding anniversary during this time. If COVID-19 didn’t happen, we would have been on a plane back and he most likely would be dead. We jokingly — but not seriously — say that COVID-19 saved his life.”
Contributing: Kim Painter, Special to USA TODAY
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