Bret Baier's 16-Year-Old Son Paul Recovering After Emergency Open-Heart Surgery: 'We Got Lucky' (Exclusive) (2024)

Fox News host Bret Baier's 16-year-old son, Paul,is expressing his gratitude after undergoing his fifth open-heart surgery last week, telling PEOPLE in an exclusive interview, "I'm so grateful to have the community I have, and to have my life. A lot can change in a matter of five hours."

The days leading up to Paul's emergency surgery were otherwise unremarkable. He caught a common cold in Palm Beach, Florida — where the family lives when not in Washington, D.C. — and out of precaution his mom, Amy, took him to a doctor.

Though the doctor believed Paul had rhinovirus, which is common, she recommended that he undergo a chest X-ray since he had a history of heart problems. Paul — who was born with fivecongenital heart defects — has undergone more than a dozen surgeries. He had his first open-heart procedure as a newborn, then three more at 10 months old, 6 years old and 13 years old.

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"The doctor, Dr. Stein, was very thorough and before we left, she said, 'Let's do a chest X-ray, just to be sure everything's okay,'" Amy explains. The X-ray showed what the physician initially thought was tissue on Paul's lungs, so she sent the scan to his cardiologist in Washington, D.C.

A few days later Paul's cardiologist called recommending that he undergo an MRI. So Paul flew back to Washington, and he and his dad went to what they assumed would be a routine appointment.

"The MRI comes back, and they sit me down and say, 'This is a really big deal. This is an aneurysm the size of a golf ball that has formed off of his heart,'" says Bret, who hosts Special Report with Bret Baier on the Fox News Channel and serves as the network's chief political anchor. "And they didn't know whether it might burst, but if it did, it might have been fatal in a matter of minutes."

Doctors recommended Paul undergo open-heart surgery as soon as possible — the next morning.

Bret Baier's 16-Year-Old Son Paul Recovering After Emergency Open-Heart Surgery: 'We Got Lucky' (Exclusive) (1)

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Speaking to PEOPLE, Bret says he was the one to break the news to Paul, who took it in stride.

"He thought I was joking at first, then he absorbed it and said, 'Okay, let's do what we need to do,'" Bret, 53, says. "He's always been that warrior, but this was a big one to absorb."

Later that day, following hours of pre-op appointments, the father-son duo spent some time at the golf course — with Paul, a varsity golf and tennis player, chipping for a birdie on the final hole to beat his dad — and enjoyed a nice dinner before a sleepless night ahead of surgery.

"As he rolled away on the gurney, it was pretty tough. Very emotional," recalls Bret, who also shares 13-year-old sonDanielwith Amy. "Then we had a waiting game for about 10 hours, which was excruciating."

Ultimately, the aneurysm was removed, and doctors believe the surgery will be Paul's last open-heart procedure.

Five days later, Paul went home, with his dad taking one final photo of his son standing in Children's National Hospital before they went home.

Bret Baier's 16-Year-Old Son Paul Recovering After Emergency Open-Heart Surgery: 'We Got Lucky' (Exclusive) (2)

Bret took to social media to share the image side-by-side with another photo of Paul — this one as a baby, following his first open-heart surgery 16 years ago at the same hospital.

Now recovering at home, Paul has about six weeks of healthy eating and daily walks ahead of him before he can resume normal activities, like swing a golf club or tennis racket.

As his mom Amy notes, the experience taught her the importance of always seeking a second opinion — even if nothing seems particularly amiss.

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"You can never be too sure, especially with cardiac kids. The more you check on things, the better. In this case, Paul didn't even have any cardiac symptoms. We just got lucky," she says.

Describing his recovery so far as "going pretty smoothly," Paul tells PEOPLE he remains grateful for his health and the team of doctors who saved his life. "It's important to be thankful for everything you have, every second of every day."

Paul's positive attitude has rubbed off on his family and, at only 16, his outlook has inspired even those much older than him.

"We have a saying in the Baier family that 'gratitude is the attitude,'" Amy says. "We learned that from Paul. Because it's much easier when you focus on all the things you're grateful for, rather than what is difficult."

Bret Baier's 16-Year-Old Son Paul Recovering After Emergency Open-Heart Surgery: 'We Got Lucky' (Exclusive) (2024)
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