Bob Odenkirk Reveals What Saved His Life During Heart Attack
The Better Call Saul actor credits these three things for his survival.
While filming his AMC series Better Call Saul in July 2021, actor Bob Odenkirk suffered a heart attack that could have killed him. The actor survived the event, however, and got back to work filming the show's final season after he recovered. He's also shared details of the experience publicly, including the three things he believes saved his life. In a recent interview with Howard Stern, Odenkirk asked that anyone listening learn more about one life-saving measure in particular so they could potentially help others.
Odenkirk has opened up about his heart attack in the past, including right after it happened on Twitter and by sharing more details in an interview with The New York Times about what led to the attack. Read on to see what the star has said about the scary health issue and to learn how he survived.
Odenkirk collapsed on the set of Better Call Saul.
Odenkirk suffered his heart attack in July 2021 while filming the Breaking Bad spinoff, Better Call Saul, in New Mexico. "I'd known since 2018 that I had this plaque buildup in my heart," he told The New York Times in February. "I went to two heart doctors at Cedars-Sinai, and I had dye and an MRI and all that stuff, and the doctors disagreed." One doctor thought he should start medication right away, and one thought he could wait; Odenkirk listened to the second one. When he had the heart attack it was because "one of those pieces of plaque broke up," he explained.
Odenkirk collapsed during a break in filming, and his co-stars' screams got the on-set medic's attention. "We were shooting a scene, we'd been shooting all day, and luckily I didn't go back to my trailer," he explained.
CPR and a defibrillator saved him.
In his chat with Stern, Odenkirk shared that the first thing that saved his life was receiving CPR. "I would've been dead if someone hadn't immediately screamed and gotten someone there to give me CPR," he said in the interview. "CPR saved my life."
After 12 minutes of CPR, Odenkirk said that the show's health officer, Rosa Estrada, ran to her car to get a defibrillator. Odenkirk also thanked Estrada and his doctors in a tweet not long after the incident.
"It took three attempts to get me to a rhythm, which is actually a lot, Howard," Odenkirk said. "I don't know any of this stuff, but I was told later when the defibrillator doesn't work once, that's not good. When it doesn't work the second time, that is kind of like forget it. But then they jacked it up a third time, and it got me back to a rhythm. And so that was what saved my life. And then I had surgery in the morning." He said the surgery "knocked out these little pieces of plaque" that had built up.
He also credits exercise.
Odenkirk had been training for his role in the 2021 action movie Nobody, which he says also helped saved his life and led to a faster recovery. He was able to return to work on Better Call Saul in September.
"One of the things that saved me was I learned how to work out," he told Stern. "Because I was in good shape, you kind of enlarge some of the other veins around your heart, if you work out a lot. And I had done that, and as a result I was told that more blood was able to go to my heart during CPR because these veins were just a little bit bigger from a lot of working out." He added, "I recovered much faster than I think a normal person who wasn't exercising so much would, because my body as already in good shape."
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He knows he wouldn't have made it without that immediate help, however.
In the same interview, the star reiterated the vital importance of having people around him who were knowledgable about first aid. Odenkirk advised Stern and his listeners, "Take CPR classes, because you can save lives with them."