Jimmy Kimmel’s willingness to be open about his son Billy’s heart condition — and the two successful surgeries his child has undergone — inspired Jaime King to speak out about her son Leo Thames’ own harrowing journey.
King, 39, tells PEOPLE Now that she first found out her youngest son, now 3½, had something called Transposition of the Great Arteries, “which is a very serious heart defect” while she was 33 weeks pregnant.
The actress also reveals that Kimmel, who has been through a similar journey with his son William “Billy” John inspired her to be more open about Leo’s story after the comedian’s a tearful address about his son’s congenital heart condition, tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia.
“You know, Jimmy’s part of the reason why I felt like it was important to be open about it,” King says of Kimmel and his son Billy, who turns 2 this month. “When you have a voice, you need to use your voice in a responsible way. And I look at my child now, and he’s so strong and amazing and vibrant, but when you’re breastfeeding a baby with 67 lines in them, it’s just a totally different experience.”
King and husband Kyle Newman are also parents to 5-year-old son James Knight.
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Jimmy Kimmel and Jaime KingDimitrios Kambouris/Getty; Tibrina Hobson/Getty
King, who’s starring in Netflix’s new zombie series Black Summer, also opens up about her pregnancy with Leo.
“I was basically in the hospital the whole time,” she recalls. “It was very secretive.”
The star went on to share that her son “crashed at birth and they had to take him out in emergency surgery.”
Afterwards, she was told she would only be able “to go see my child” if she could physically walk there herself, and much to the doctors’ surprise, King “got up off the surgical table,” where her son was on life support.
“When I walked in, their faces, they went pale and I thought for sure that was it,” she says of her son, who went on to undergo heart surgery at 20 weeks old.
These days, King shares that there’s “nothing” Leo can’t do.
“He’s amazing. He’s so strong,” she shares. “There’s nothing that this kid cannot do.”
“That’s the incredible thing about kids that go through something, a sickness or some sort of intensity, I notice they have this, not just a bravery, they’re fierce,” King says. “And when they said we promise you he will be able to do everything in life, it’ll be like — they made a lot of promises, and of course you think they’re just telling you that as a mom, but I’m just like oh my god.”
King went on to tell PEOPLE Now about her son’s two amazing godmothers: Jessica Alba and Taylor Swift.
“Well Jessica Alba is James Knight’s godmother and Jess was the first one of us to have kids. I was really grateful because Jess had carried me through all of my pregnancies,” she shares.
And even though Swift “was on tour” while she was pregnant with Leo, “she literally flew back from Germany to throw my baby shower and she was such a rock.”
“She would sneak in, like I had to, into the hospital and be there,” King says, adding that Swift went on to give “a very incredible donation” to Cedars-Sinai, where Leo had his surgery.
“It doesn’t matter the name of the person, or who they are. It’s not about the fact that either of them are famous. These are women that I love and that are there and have been there and that’s the most important thing,” she adds.