Jeannie Mai Says She 'Almost Died' During 'Dancing With the Stars' Rehearsal Amid Health Scare

Jeannie Mai is getting real about the life-threatening health scare she suffered last month while competing on Dancing With the Stars. The 41-year-old TV personality shocked fans of the ABC reality competition when she abruptly withdrew from Season 29 after being diagnosed with epiglottitis, an inflammatory condition that caused her throat to close up and ultimately led to her emergency throat surgery.

"Ariel's back, b—! She found her voice," Mai said, referencing The Little Mermaid, on her show Hello Hunnay, premiered by Entertainment Tonight. "Some of you may have heard that I recently got really sick. [...] I'm going to be honest with you. Even when I was diagnosed, I did not take it seriously. I was not focused on saving my life; I was focused on competing on Dancing With the Stars."

Speaking to her DWTS pro partner Brandon Armstrong, who appeared on the episode, she said that they "really thought we could take that mirrorball," so she pushed herself to her physical limits. "I got sick, but it was just, what I thought, a sore throat. That morning that I felt my sore throat, I went to go rehearse with Brandon at 7 in the morning and I was very tired, but I had a long day of shooting after that. I went from Brandon's rehearsal then to a long shoot that was freezing cold where the illness I had quickly caught on and got worse because I was sitting under an air conditioning vent that just got me freezing cold and made me plummet into actually getting sick."

She went on, disclosing that the next day she woke up with a "heavy sore throat" and canceled her and Armstrong's practice for the first time all season. She then saw a doctor who misdiagnosed her and shot her up with steroids, telling her she had a simple sore throat. However, during their rescheduled rehearsal the following day, she said she "was almost dying in that room, but I didn't know it because I was pushing through and hyped up on steroids."

A few days went by and the pain in Mai's throat didn't lessen any. Armstrong advised that she not get any more steroid shots, as he previously suffered an injury after dancing on a numb Achilles tendon after taking a steroid shot. Mai said that her neck was numb "because I couldn't feel anything when it was really closing up," thanks to the steroid shot. "My throat was 60% closed. It was numb, but it was closed."

Later that night, she told her fiancé Jeezy that she was going to bed early because she felt "terrible," and asked him to "please pray for me because I think that if I don't make it through this, I don't know if I'm going to make it through camera blocking."

When she awoke the next day at 5 a.m., she couldn't breathe. "I was literally, like, gasping for air," she recalled. "I don't want to wake up J, so I crawl out of bed, I go and grab some Aspirin to reduce the swelling ... the Aspirin sticks on the back of my tongue and doesn't go down because there's no hole."

Jeezy rushed her to urgent care, where she again was misdiagnosed. Mai was about to go through with dancing on the show when a friend suggested she see an ear, nose and throat doctor. "I obliged, because of J, went there and found out that my throat was going to close in the next few hours," Mai said. "I called Brandon and was so upset. Was absolutely enraged in tears, like, 'They're making me do this, I'm so sorry.'"


Although Mai was forced to pull out of the competition to undergo emergency surgery, she was able to return to the ballroom a few weeks later for what surely was a bittersweet finale night and has since returned to her seat on The Real. Upon returning to the NBC talk show, she told her co-hosts Adrienne Hough, Garcelle Beauvais and Loni Love, "You don't understand, I want to group hug everybody!"

"Yo, I'm ready to be back here working every day," she continued. "I'm, like, kissing everything. I'm ready! Anybody out there who knows what it's like to be sick, where you can't do anything. You can't talk, you can't move ... it's the worst feeling ever. ... And Real fam, I've got all of your messages. I'm back. Long-winded is in the house. Do something 'bout it, she's back!"