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Maggie Sajak had one person on her mind when Vanna White introduced her as a special letter-turner on “Wheel of Fortune.”
“It was a difficult time for all of us when my father had his surgery, but I was so happy to help out on the show,” the 25-year-old told Fox News. “Vanna was very generous with her time and gave me a lot of pointers, and the staff and crew couldn’t have been more helpful or supportive. I’m happy that the shows went well, but I’m even happier that my father has returned to work!”
White, 62, the longtime letter-turner on the beloved game show, filled in for host Pat Sajak while he recovered from surgery. In a video posted to YouTube on Monday, Pat, 73, told fans that there would be a guest on the series before White introduced Sajak to the studio audience.
“As you just heard, Pat will be back next week. In the meantime, I’m happy to fill in,” said White. “But, you know, I could do this even better, hosting the show with a Sajak. Everyone, please welcome Pat’s daughter, Maggie Sajak.”
Sajak said that despite Pat’s surgery being a “scary experience” for her, he’s now “doing great and he’s so excited to be back next week.”
Vanna White, Pat Sajak and Maggie Sajak are seen on January 9, 2020, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by OGUT/Star Max/GC Images)
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Sajak also reminded viewers that she made her “WOF” debut many years ago as a young child and showcased a clip of Pat introducing her in 1996 while she mumbled in typical baby talk.
“I’m walking a little better now and hopefully I’m a little more eloquent than last time,” she joked.
Pat had never missed a taping until November when a sudden pain in his stomach quickly turned into emergency surgery to correct an intestinal block. Now he’s made a full recovery.
“I’ve actually felt ridiculously good for several weeks. I’ve been back in the studio spinning the wheel and nothing has popped,” Pat previously told “Good Morning America” in December 2019.
The star recalled the day he went under the knife as being relatively normal. He woke up and took a walk with his daughter, but things took a turn when he got home and prepared for work. He suddenly felt an intense pain in his stomach and was soon rushed to the hospital. Within two hours, he was in surgery.
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Maggie Sajak, TV personality Pat Sajak and Lesly Brown attend The Wheel of Fortune: 35 Years as America’s Game hosted by The Paley Center For Media at The Paley Center for Media on November 15, 2017, in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage/Getty)
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“You couldn’t do anything. I was in the fetal position, lying in the bed,” he said. “They try to give you various drugs for the pain. And none of it was working. And then they gave me something, I couldn’t even tell you the name of it, but suddenly, I wasn’t thinking about the pain. I just had these beautiful pastels and lovely faces coming out of it.”
The star noted that he wasn’t scared for his life, but was worried about his family should that have been his final moment on Earth.
“In the background, I could hear my wife and daughter talking. It sounded like they were a mile off, but they were right next to me. They were talking to each other. And I remember thinking, not in a morbid way, ‘I think this must be death. This must be what death is like,’“ he said. “Hearing their voices, I thought, ‘Boy, their lives are gonna change now.’ And I felt bad for them. I didn’t feel bad about dying. I felt bad that they were gonna have to deal with the aftermath. As it turned out, I was just high.”
Fortunately, doctors considered the surgery a success. However, because they’re not sure what caused the blockage, he was not ordered to adjust his lifestyle. As a result, he’s back at work after a brief hiatus.
“I’m as good or bad as new, and that’s great. I still have my wits about me. They didn’t remove that, so I’ll be selling vowels for a long time,” he said.
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Maggie Sajak first appeared on “Wheel of Fortune” at the age of 1. (NBC Studios)
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As for White taking over his duties, Pat praised her for agreeing to fill in while he was away.
“What a trooper. And I’m not being condescending in any way because it would have been well within her rights to say, ‘Wait a minute, this is not what you’re paying me for. This is not what I do. And I’d rather not,’” he explained. “But she’s a team player. And she was very nervous and not comfortable.”
The star, who has led the show since 1982 for more than 7,000 episodes, confessed that the incident as well as getting older have helped him appreciate his position on the show and what it means for people. However, he understands that he simply can’t do it forever.
“I’m not getting any younger,” he said when asked how long he’ll remain the host. “A couple of years?”
He continued: “What I’m really sensitive about is… I’d rather leave a couple of years too early than a couple of years too late.”
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(L-R) Pat Sajak, Vanna White and Alex Trebek attend Harry Friedman being honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on November 01, 2019, in Hollywood, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
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When pressed, Sajak estimated that he expects he’ll retire within two or three years.
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