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Bob Odenkirk has opened up about his heart attack while on the set of his AMC series Better Call Saul back in July 2021, an experience that Odenkirk has no memory of but resulted in the actor having stents put into his heart.
In an interview with The New York Times, Odenkirk recounts the ordeal, which he was able to piece together through co-star Rhea Seehorn and others who were there at the time. The actor said the cause of the medical emergency on July 28, 2021, was the result of a history of plaque buildup in his heart. “I’d known since 2018 that I had this plaque buildup in my heart,” Odenkirk said. “I went to two heart doctors at Cedars-Sinai, and I had dye and an M.R.I. and all that stuff, and the doctors disagreed.”
After getting different advice from two separate doctors on treatment, Odenkirk followed the suggestion of the second professional, who said he didn’t need to immediately start medication. The actor said he had remained fine up until that moment, when “one of those pieces of plaque broke up.”
“We were shooting a scene, we’d been shooting all day, and luckily I didn’t go back to my trailer,” he said. Instead, he retreated to a location on one of the show’s “massive” soundstages where he and co-stars Patrick Fabian and Seehorn hung out. He says that decision resulted in him not being alone and allowed for more immediate help when his heart attack happened.
“I went to play the Cubs game and ride my workout bike, and I just went down,” Odenkirk recounted of the experience, during which he, at one point, laid on the ground without a pulse. “Rhea said I started turning bluish-gray right away.”
Fabian and Seehorn were both with Odenkirk when he had the heart attack, and their screams in response to the Better Call Saul star’s medical event were what alerted one of the production’s medics, who responded to him. It was specifically the show’s health safety supervisor, Rosa Estrada, and assistant director, Angie Meyer, who arrived to help administer CPR before hooking the actor up to an automated defibrillator. Their second attempt resulted in an irregular pulse that the Times reports quickly disappeared.
“The third time it got me that rhythm back,” Odenkirk said.
Odenkirk was then taken to Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque and his medical team performed a procedure that “blew up the little balloons [inside his clogged arteries] and knocked out that plaque and left stents in two places.” Odenkirk’s family, including his wife and children, stayed with him throughout the week at the hospital as he recovered.
At the time, his reps confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that the actor was stable and that his family was thankful “for the outpouring of well wishes” as they requested privacy during his recovery.
Of the experience, which Odenkirk largely doesn’t remember, Seehorn described it as “its own weirdness.”
“You didn’t have a near-death experience — you’re told you had one,” she told the Times.
Following his heart attack, the Better Call Saul star shared updates on his condition via his social media, likening the response to his hospitalization as an “‘It’s a wonderful life’ week of people insisting I make the world slightly better.”
On Sept. 8, several months after the incident, Odenkirk confirmed he was back on set and working on the final season. “So happy to be here,” he said, “and living this specific life surrounded by such good people.”
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