Carvey underwent a routine angioplasty to open the artery, but scar tissue kept forming and reblocking it. His doctor in Los Angeles, P.K. Shah, chief of cardiology at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, recommended bypass surgery to channel the blood away from the blocked arteries to ones that were functioning normally.
Carvey decided to have the operation near San Francisco, closer to his family. Even as he was being wheeled into the operating room, he was cracking the hospital staff up with an impression of a hypochondriac Woody Allen. "They were just dying," he recalls.
After the operation, Carvey began to recover, and felt fine until he went out hiking near Lake Tahoe and felt the same burning sensation as before. When he got a check-up, doctors told him there seemed to be a problem with the way his blood was flowing. Carvey says that an angiogram, an X-ray of his blood vessels, revealed that the surgeon in San Francisco had bypassed the wrong artery. Carvey's stunned reaction was, "Come again? Excuse me?"
Carvey learned that he had been a time bomb for months, and could have had a fatal heart attack at any time. Shah immediately performed an emergency angioplasty to open the artery that was still narrowed.
While recovering, Carvey waited for an apology from the San Franscisco surgeon, but says it never came. He sued the surgeon for $7.5 million. Carvey says he had no other recourse, because the surgeon had insisted in a deposition that he did not make a mistake.
During the trial, the doctor's lawyers argued that he "could have been misled by the unusual anatomy of Mr. Carvey's heart."
But Shah told the court there was nothing unusual about Carvey's heart, backing up his contention with films of Carvey's heart in action, and a blow-by-blow description of the botched surgery and its effects. The surgeon's insurance company settled with Carvey for an undisclosed amount but never admitted liability. Carvey donated all of the money to charity.
ABCNEWS contacted the surgeon, who disputes Carvey's claims and maintains his surgery was perfect.
Back on the Screen
Today, Carvey has a clean bill of health, and is returning to the big screen with a new movie, The Master of Disguise, and to television with a string of appearances. Last week, on The Tonight Show, he showed off his good health by doing push-ups for Jay Leno. Comedy Central is running compilations of Carvey's best Saturday Night Live skits.
In The Master of Disguise, he plays Pistachio Disguisey, a sweet-natured Italian waiter who discovers he has an amazing knack for mimicry. When he hears a family enemy is out to steal the world's most precious treasures, he uses his secret powers to stop the criminal mastermind and save his father from danger.
Carvey plays no fewer than 36 different characters in the film. For the man of a thousand faces, the roles seem fitting.