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The longtime NBC weather anchor and co-host joined Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie at the show’s open, walking to the anchor desk with the help of a cane. “I have missed you guys so very much, you are my second family, and it is just great to be back,” he told them.
Later on in the program, Roker and his wife, ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts, revealed just how serious his condition in a conversation with Today anchors Kotb, Guthrie, Craig Melvin and Carson Daly.
“I’m not overstating it I don’t think, Al was a very, very, very sick man,” Roberts said, sparking tears in Guthrie’s eyes. “And I think most people did not know that, and you all had a chance to know that.”
In fact, Roberts said that when he first fell ill, it was not immediately clear what he was suffering from.
“It was a team that had to figure out what was happening, he was a medical mystery for a couple of weeks. It was the most tumultuous, frightening journey we have ever been on,” Roberts added. “Al went through a lot of tests, a lot of scopes, and there was just so much that had to be done — and a surgery if you don’t mind me saying — a major, major surgery, and we were just on pins and needles every day.”
Roker said that he had COVID-19 last fall, and subsequently developed blood clots, which ultimately spread to his lungs. But that wasn’t the entire story.
“I had two complicating things. I had blood clots that they think came up after I had COVID in September. And then you know, I had this internal bleeding going on. I lost half my blood, and they were trying to figure out where it was,” Roker said. “Finally they went in, did the surgery, and it ended up that I had two bleeding ulcers. They had to resection the colon and take out my gallbladder.”
“I went in for one operation, and I got four free,” Roker quipped.
Indeed, Roberts credited Roker’s humor with giving her strength during the ordeal.
“I was sitting there one day in the hospital and through this very scratchy voice — he was so gaunt and exhausted — he said, ‘I’m going to make a spatchcocked turkey for Christmas.’ And I didn’t know whether to burst into tears,” Roberts said. “That was the moment for me, and it will always be the moment for me, where I knew [he would be OK]. I’m sitting here hoping he’s got to make it to Christmas, and he just wants to make a turkey.”
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