Children's Hospital LA received 'several hundred calls' after Jimmy Kimmel plea

ABC News spoke to hospital CEO Paul Viviano about the situation.

May 04, 2017, 1:40 PM

— -- In an emotional monologue on Monday night, Jimmy Kimmel revealed his son, William, was born with a heart defect that required open-heart surgery three days after his birth with additional procedures to come.

"It’s a terrifying thing" Kimmel told the audience, becoming emotional while recounting the ordeal. Towards the end of his 13-minute monologue, he thanked the staff at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles for saving his baby's life and urged viewers to donate to their cause.

Kimmel also made a plea for people of every political party to advocate for all Americans have access to medical care, especially children who have preexisting medical conditions, like Kimmel's son, who are currently covered under the affordable health care act.

ABC News spoke to Children's Hospital Los Angeles's CEO and president Paul Viviano about Kimmel's message and the "hundreds of calls" they've gotten from people looking to help or just looking for more information in the past few days.

CHLA is a "nonprofit institution that provides pediatric health care and helps our patients more than 528,000 times each year," the hospital's official website explains, saying it is "a provider of more than $232.6 million in community benefits annually to children."

So what does this all mean to the hospital and the children they treat?

"We have a mission that calls for us not to turn any patient away, regardless of their financial status," Viviano said. But without the help of private donors and government-backed health care like the Affordable Care Act, he said, coverage for these less-fortunate children without private health care is at risk.

"Today there are safeguards in place," he said, adding that health care coverage can prevent parents from having to "make decisions that are difficult and uncomfortable" about what they can afford when it comes to treating their children.

He admitted that health care is "highly complex and can vary by state." Kimmel's son William, for example, has a "very extensive path that they are on to have this series of surgeries that he will receive and if he didn't have private insurance coverage, he would likely reach a limit on lifetime cap [of coverage]." For families without private insurance, that would mean out of pocket costs for these expensive surgeries.

Viviano praised Kimmel for speaking about his son's condition publicly.

"It was a marvelous thing that he did; it takes a lot of compassion and poise to talk about such a challenging personal situation," he said. "His son is obviously doing well and it's a great story, and his advocacy for coverage of preexisting conditions for children and access to care for all children ... that's wonderful for very deserving children."

An increased awareness of what Children's Hospital Los Angeles does followed Kimmel's speech of support and concern, Viviano said. More people have come forward willing to help.

PHOTO: A pedestrian crosses a bridge that connects two buildings at the Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, Sept. 17, 2014.
A pedestrian crosses a bridge that connects two buildings at the Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, Sept. 17, 2014.
Richard Vogel/AP Photo

"We have literally had several hundred calls, maybe more than 1,000 calls to our center ... and we have had some donations as well," he said. "We are still sort of wading through what that is, but there has been a notable spike in interest in our heart center, in our programs, the surgical team surgical team that provided this high quality care [for Kimmel's son]... A lot of calls have come from questions about personal health to 'Can we support what you do?'"

The hospital CEO added that with technology changing everyday, there are new ways to help newborns like William that didn't exist before.

"Today, the ability to diagnose children earlier, even fetal diagnosis, has improved dramatically," he said. "These kinds of diagnostic advances have yielded treatments that actually make a difference ... The heart surgery that Jimmy's son had wasn't an option a decade ago."

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