Jeannie Mai says her battle with epiglottitis was a “traumatic experience”
The TV presenter had to quit 'Dancing with the Stars' earlier this month due to being admitted to hospital for the operation, after she was diagnosed with the potentially life-threatening condition that can cause swelling and block airflow to the lungs
26 November 2020
And now, Jeannie has opened up on the events that led to her surgery, revealing she was “misdiagnosed” by two doctors, whom she visited after she found she was battling strep throat whilst juggling her hectic schedule, including attending ‘DWTS’ rehearsals and shooting ‘The Real’.
© 2021 Bang Showbiz, NZCity
She recalled: "I got some steroid shots and continued on with that same chaotic schedule. [My doctors] misdiagnosed me and kept me on steroids, which allowed me to keep going with my taxing schedule.
“I left rehearsals early because ... I couldn't breathe. I was wearing my mask, so sometimes [when] I couldn't breathe, I thought it was the mask, but it was really my throat cavity closing.”
On the night of November 1, Jeannie woke up “gasping for air”, and was rushed to hospital, where she was told a "huge abscess was growing” in her throat, which she needed to have surgery on immediately.
She added: "My sore throat turned out to be strep throat that quickly turned into a parapharyngeal abscess. I was breathing like Darth Vader. It was a traumatic experience.”
Following her surgery, Jeannie was told she couldn’t do “any form of respiratory work” including walking fast, laughing, or getting excited, meaning she had to drop out of ‘DWTS’ for good.
And although the news was devastating, Jeannie knew it was for the best, because she still “couldn’t breathe” even after her operation.
She said: "The alarming thing is, I still couldn't breathe afterwards. It was even worse because now - because of extreme surgery, where he had removed my tonsils and also completely cut open the abscess in my throat in order to funnel the liquid out - my throat is swollen. I couldn't eat anything for two weeks, so I was tube feeding there in the hospital for a week, and I had a nurse come in every two hours just to make sure I was breathing.
“Having to be on extreme critical care watch was really scary. That was another scary part, when you realise how fragile you are coming out of surgery even though everything was removed. After I left the hospital, for a week being at home, I still had to be on an IV and I could not move, because anything you do that raises your blood pressure causes your throat to tighten up.”
Now, Jeannie says she’s “96 percent better”, and is “so thankful” to the medical team that operated on her.
She told People magazine: "I can speak. I can't yell, but I can speak. I’m so thankful, so I'm definitely coming out into the clear now."