Celebrity

Montel Williams: I’m "Blessed To Be Alive" After Stroke

Montel Williams - Instagram / New York Presbyterian Hospital

Montel Williams has a lot to be thankful for, and I don't just mean his impressive TV career.

While he hosted 17 seasons of The Montel Williams Show, and is back on the air again with his new show Military Makeover, his biggest stroke of luck came just a few months ago.

Because, as Williams has just revealed, he nearly died from a very serious stroke earlier this year.

"I threw the weight down and said to myself, 'You just had a stroke.'"

Williams, 62, told Good Morning America's Robin Roberts that he almost died while working out in May, during a work trip to New York City.

The talk show host is both a U.S. Marine Corps and Navy veteran, and is known for keeping in excellent shape.

But Williams admits he may have "overdone it" during the grueling workout, which featured 20 minutes on the treadmill, 20 minutes on the elliptical, and intense weightlifting.

He had just finished lifting a 60-pound dumbbell when a loud pop noise interrupted his workout.

"I knew there was nobody there and so I looked to my left," he told People. "And as my eyes came back around, the whole room started to kaleidoscope and I got hit with the wave of tired."

That popping noise is often heard when a blood vessel bursts inside the brain.

Soon, Williams experienced many of the telltale symptoms of a stroke, including a drooping, drooling side of his mouth.

Montel Williams Dr. Oz
Williams says an episode of 'Dr. Oz' taught him how to spot a stroke.Montel Williams - Instagram

By chance, Williams had learned how to spot these signs just a few weeks earlier, while watching his friend Dr. Mehmet Oz's talk show.

"Maybe about a month before, I was watching Dr. Oz and I saw an episode on stroke," Williams said.

"I threw the weight down and said to myself, 'You just had a stroke.'"

"Call an ambulance right now and tell them your husband just had a stroke."

The advice Williams learned from that lucky episode of Dr. Oz may have saved his life, because he was suddenly hit by a wave of tiredness and weakness.

He knew it was dangerous to lay down or rest, and forced his way out of the gym by staggering against a wall.

"I could barely move," Williams remembered, but he just told himself, "I’m not dying in this gym alone."

Somehow, Williams made it into an elevator and up to his hotel room, where he called out to his wife for help.

"I said, 'Call an ambulance right now and tell them your husband just had a stroke,'" he said. "If she had not been in that room, I would be dead today."

In another stroke of good luck, the ambulance that arrived for Williams was a specially equipped stroke unit from a nearby hospital. EMTs gave him an on-site CAT scan, which prevented them from giving him the wrong treatment.

Still, a pool of blood "the size of a peach" had formed in Williams' head when he reached the hospital.

He spent three weeks recovering in the ICU, and had months of intensive physical therapy ahead of him.

But Williams still insists he's lucky. With his type of stroke, a cerebellar hemorrhagic stroke, 50% of patients die, or are left with permanent neurological disabilities.

"When you start thinking about it those statistics?" Williams said. "That’s harsh reality."

"You’re not dying. You’re not quitting. You’re going to fight this. You’re going to get this back."

When Williams started rehab, he says could could barely sit up, or even talk.

"I was almost paralyzed," he said, "it was terrifying."

"But I remember telling myself, ‘You’re not dying. You’re not quitting. You’re going to fight this. You’re going to get this back.'"

Five months after his stroke, Williams said he's "way ahead" of his recovery.

"I really need another month before I'm beyond that acute phase of having a stroke. But I made it back. I got it back."

The TV host blames his "type-A" personality and stressful lifestyle for his near-death experience, and urges his fans to take it easy.

"I'm so blessed to be alive and I'm not taking it for granted."

Recognize the signs of a stroke with FAST

Face, is it drooping?

Arms, can you raise both?

Speech, is it jumbled or slurred?

Time, it's time to call 911 if you recognize these symptoms.

Make sure you and your loved ones learn these steps, you need to act FAST during a stroke!

I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories. CONTACT: zachary@shared.com