John Ritter's Widow Got Candid in 2018 about Rare Disease That Killed the Actor in 2003

Sep 17, 2021
07:27 A.M.
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In 2018, John Ritter's widow Amy Yasbeck opened up about the disease that killed her husband back in 2003. She wanted to raise awareness about the silent disease that kills over 15,000 people a year. 

Although it's been 18 years since John Ritter's death, his widow Amy Yasbeck remains committed to fighting one of the lesser-known yet highly dangerous diseases known to man–aortic disease.  The illness kills over 15,000 people every year in the US, which is why she remains an advocate for raising awareness about it.

Yasbeck, an actress known for her roles in "The Mask" and "Robin Hood: Men In Tights," currently runs John Ritter Foundation. It aims to educate people about aortic disease. In 2003, Ritter died from it suddenly while rehearsing on the set of a TV production he was in. 

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ADVOCATING FOR AWARENESS

Accompanied by Deanna Korondi, another woman who lost her husband of 28 years to the illness, she talked about the experience of going through her husband’s sudden death. He was only 54 at the time.

He was rehearsing for his new television show, “8 Simple Rules,” when he suddenly started to feel unwell and had to be rushed to the hospital. The medical professionals initially misdiagnosed his condition as a heart attack, which can often occur during aortic dissections.

Actor John Ritter attends the 4th Annual Family Television Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 31, 2002 in Beverly Hills, California | Photo: Getty Images

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MISTREATED FOR THE ILLNESS

Because of this, he was mistreated as the doctors gave him blood thinners, which is the wrong medication to give to a person experiencing internal bleeding. “When aortic dissection is confused with heart disease, it’s fatal,” Yasbeck said in the interview.

The John Ritter Foundation came into existence just within a few weeks of his death as Yasbeck vowed to prevent other families from suffering the same fate as hers. She also said that working for the foundation helps her stay connected with her late husband.

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YASBECK'S FINAL MOMENTS WITH RITTER

After the actor's death, Yasbeck filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital he died in. While at the court, she revealed that at the time, she asked her husband to be brave because the doctors knew what they were doing. 

According to Yasbeck, he indeed was brave, and the last thing she was able to do before he was wheeled away was mouthing the words "I love you."

After his death, it took a while before she could return to acting, appearing on "Pretty Little Liars," "Workaholics," and "That's So Raven," among others. 

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ABOUT THE DISEASE

According to Healthline, aortic dissection is a result of a condition called an aortic aneurysm, which is the widening or ballooning out of the aorta. This happens when there is a weak spot in the aortic wall. The aorta is the main vessel that transmits blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

In the US, aortic aneurysms are the 13th leading cause of death, which causes over an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 deaths every year. However, it is not as talked about compared to other sudden illnesses. 

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HIS CAREER AND PERSONAL LIFE

Born on September 17, 1948, Ritter is best known for his role as Jack Tripper on "Three's Company." His performance in the comedy series earned him a Golden Globe and an Emmy. 

He also made appearances on "Hawaii Five-O," "M*A*S*H," and "The Waltons" before landing his best-known role. Off-camera, he was a supporter of the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation because of his brother Tom who triumphed over the disease. 

Ritter was first married to Nancy Morgan from 1977 to 1996, and together they share three kids: Jason, Tyler, and Carly. He and Amy Yasbeck married in 1999 and share a daughter named Stella in 1998. 

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