Fans of NBC’s “Today” were shocked when it was announced on the popular morning show that Al Roker, one of its presenters and the show’s resident weatherman, was hospitalized with a health scare in the latter part of 2022. It was such a tumultuous experience for his family, as his medical team initially didn’t realize what was wrong with him, except that there was internal bleeding. After two months of absence, he went back to the TV show in the first week of 2023, and was welcomed with deafening applause.
- 1 Get to know Al Roker
- 2 Al Roker’s health issues
- 2.1 Underwent a bariatric surgery
- 2.2 His knee replacement surgery in 2016
- 2.3 His carpal tunnel surgery in 2018
- 2.4 His hip replacement surgery in 2019
- 2.5 His shoulder surgery in 2020
- 2.6 His battle with prostate cancer
- 2.7 Tested positive for Covid-19 in 2022
- 2.8 Blood clots on his leg and lungs in November 2022
- 2.9 Went back to the hospital again
- 3 2023 update on Al Roker’s health status
Get to know Al Roker
Long before the American viewing public knew him as one of the most beloved institutions on TV, through his participation in the long-running morning show, as with many people, Al Roker struggled for years to reach his comfortable position today in the TV industry and life in general.
His childhood, education, and family
The New York City native, Albert Lincoln “Al” Roker Jr., was born on 20 August 1954. His American parents, Albert Lincoln, Sr. and Isabel were of Bahamian and Jamaican descent, respectively. He came from a blue-collar background, with his father as a former bus driver and a dispatcher, and later on became a labor relations negotiator for Transit Authority in New York. His mother was focused on raising him and his five younger siblings in a Catholic household, which led him to matriculate from a local Jesuit military Xavier High School, using a scholarship that was granted to him. Most of the fans thought that he aimed to be on TV early on in life, but Al shared in one of his interviews, ‘I wanted to go to New York School of Graphic Art and Design. That’s where almost every golden age comic artist and cartoonist went.’ However, his parents were against it, saying that he wouldn’t go to school just to learn how to draw cartoons.
The family of eight didn’t have the extra money to send the eldest son to a private university at that time, so Al earned his bachelor’s degree in Communications in 1976 from the State University of New York, Oswego. Everyone knew that there was an advantage if a person studied at an Ivy League School, however, Al said that his stint at the state university helped him reach his potential. A senior department head in the university, who immediately saw something in him, made sure that he was given opportunities within the school system to better himself. That relentless faith in him made him believe in his capability to go toe to toe with other students from popular expensive universities. While studying in college, he was hired as a weatherman for a local news station, at the behest once again of the college department head.
How he started his broadcasting career
It didn’t take long after his college graduation that WTVH, a local CBS affiliate in Syracuse, hired his services as a weather anchor. He then moved to Washington, D.C. to work with WTTG, an independent station, and learned more about the industry. With his talent in weather broadcasting, it wasn’t a surprise that the NBC network noticed him. Al’s first job under the NBC network was in an NBC Cleveland station, WKYC. After five years, he was asked to go back to New York City to work with WNBC – TV executives wanted him to do the weather reporting during weekends.
It didn’t stop there, as producers saw his immense talent, so he took over the weeknights as well. Then he became the second-string weather reporter from the early 1980s up to the 2000s, for the top people in the network such as Joe Witte, Willard Scott, Bryant Gumbel and Matt Lauer, he even won the Best Weatherman award from the New York Magazine. People were amazed that he didn’t take a meteorology course in college, unlike the other weather reporters on TV, but most of his weather reports included scientific backgrounds, which were way more than what his colleagues did at that time. With the help of NBC’s radar instead of using the National Weather Service, he wrote his own forecasts, and was kept updated on incoming weather disturbances.
Oh, it was a boisterous FriYAY Today Show plaza crowd and @photonate was there for it
His entry in “The Today Show”
In 1995, Al was given his biggest break – a TV show of his own called “The Al Roker Show” aired during weekends. Soon after that, he was offered a spot on NBC’s flagship morning show, “The Today Show,” also known as “Today.” He said that he learned from the best weather forecasters out there including Willard Scott, who advised him to just be himself and not resort to any gimmickry that Al normally used to do during his segments. Willard also said that it was the secret to longevity in the industry; Al followed his advice, and it worked for him.
When Willard retired in 1996, Al took over his position and worked with the “Today” show reporting as a full-time regular member of the team. He was given the regular weekday weather segment, and with his accurate yet easygoing style of reporting, he became a staple with the American viewing public. By 2012, aside from being the weatherman, he co-anchored the third hour of the “Today” show, entitled “Today’s Take.” The segment was canceled in 2017, but was revived a year later, and he was back again hosting the same segment, up to this day.
His moments with high-profile personalities
Over the years, his popularity increased, and he became a household name. Al was given many rare opportunities in the broadcasting field, one of them being when he covered Barack Obama’s 2013 Presidential Inauguration, and shook the hand of then-Vice-President Joe Biden, who seemed to have built a good rapport with him. So it wasn’t a surprise when the former VP fist-bumped with him just before entering the White House when inaugurated as President in 2021.
Everyone thought that Alice Bell, the WNBC producer, was Al’s first wife, because few people knew that he’d married and divorced an unnamed woman when he wasn’t a public figure yet. It seemed that both Al and his first ex-wife never talked about it, so most entertainment sites failed to include this little nugget of information in his resume. Anyway, Al married Alice in 1984 and after three years they adopted a daughter named Courtney, but 10 years later the couple divorced. In 1995, Al married Deborah Roberts, a TV journalist for ABC, and they had two children, Nicholas born in 2002, and Leila in 1998.
Al Roker’s health issues
Underwent a bariatric surgery
After getting winded by going up a short climb, Al felt that he needed a change. At 48 years old, he was a 5ft -8in tall, 340lb man, and he knew that if he didn’t do something about his weight, something disastrous could happen to him. He’d struggled with weight issues since he was a kid. His father, who had lung cancer back in 2001, encouraged him to get fit and healthy. His dad told him a week before he died, ‘Look, we both know I’m not going to be here to help you with my grandkids, so you gotta promise you’re going to lose weight.’
In 2002, he opted to for a weight-loss treatment called bariatric surgery, and in just eight months, viewers were happy for him because he’d lost about 100lbs. However, in 2007 a crisis in the family triggered him back to the unhealthy eating habits that made him regain almost all the pounds that h’de lost. As a result, he initially went on a yo-yo diet, but with the support of his wife and children, he regained self-control. After changing his lifestyle accompanied by hard work, his weight went down to 200lbs. Al used the controversial Keto diet, and while he gained some criticism over it, he said that people should do whatever worked for them, with the advice of their physician.
His knee replacement surgery in 2016
Al had already undergone knee surgeries in the past, due to a car accident and his weight issues, but in 2016, his surgeon performed knee replacement surgery. Apparently, the doctor said that it was the generation in which most people wore out their joints by working out too much in the gym, and staying active for most of their younger years. The doctors spent an hour working on his right knee and the surgery went well, but Al needed more therapy to be cleared to work again. He took the therapy seriously, and it didn’t take long for him to be back on the “Today” show.
His carpal tunnel surgery in 2018
The esteemed weatherman had emergency carpal tunnel surgery in October 2018. It was during the time when he was about to make his big Broadway debut entitled “Waitress” that he had a problem with his thumb, which bothered him immensely during rehearsals. It came to the point that he couldn’t feel anything with it, that his doctors advised him to have surgery. He requested general anesthesia as he never wanted to feel or see anything while he went under the knife. After a day’s rest, he was seen on the “Today” show again doing his hosting job, saying that it had been just another regular day for him.
His hip replacement surgery in 2019
Al Roker’s friends and fans were again anxious when he asked for a medical leave in September 2019. Three months before having surgery, he dealt with persistent pain in his hip; his earlier trip to the Arctic region as part of a NASA mission to study glacier meltdown had exacerbated the condition. He said that it started with a little twinge and pinch in his hip, and then his back was aching as well. His doctors said that there was new hip replacement surgery called hip resurfacing arthroplasty. Instead of removing the femoral head in the hip, it would just be trimmed and capped with a metal object; the surgery was successful.
His shoulder surgery in 2020
Al’s problem with arthritis ended when he realized that the severe joint pain he had in his right shoulder wouldn’t go away if he didn’t go under the knife again. It came to the point that he could only sleep two to three hours a night, and so his orthopedic surgeon went on to perform shoulder replacement surgery. He already had the rotator cuff repair in his right shoulder in 2014, but it seemed that it was acting up again. The surgery was successful, and the then 65-year-old was absent from his show for only about a week.
His battle with prostate cancer
A few months after his shoulder replacement surgery, Al broke some bad and good news to his fans. It wasn’t because something went wrong with his recent surgery, but it was about his being diagnosed with prostate cancer during a routine check-up. The good news was that the cancer was detected immediately, but the bad news was that it was an aggressive form of prostate cancer, although a good thing about the unfortunate situation was that the cancer was somehow confined to the prostate only. He went back onto the operating table for the removal of his prostate, and took an indefinite leave of absence because he wanted to get treatment for it by using the different options available, so that it wouldn’t return.
The main reason he shared this health issue with the public was not to get sympathy, but to raise awareness about the illness. Not everyone knew that the statistics for this type of cancer was that one out of nine men would contract it, but for African-American men, it was one out of seven. He encouraged every man to have their prostate tested, as it only involved a simple test that could save a lot of heartbreak if detected early, because it was treatable.
Tested positive for Covid-19 in 2022
Just when things were getting better for the weatherman, he revealed that he tested positive for the Covid-19 virus in September 2022. The only good thing about it was that Al only had mild symptoms, as compared to the others who suffered badly because of it. He encouraged everyone to take the vaccine shots, as it worked for him. ‘I got boosted last week. And the science works. I don’t feel anything really, and all is good.’
Blood clots on his leg and lungs in November 2022
Al was conspicuously absent from Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in November 2022. Weeks before the TV special was aired, many viewers started to wonder what could have happened to him, as he hadn’t shown his face in the morning show. He revealed on his social media account that he was hospitalized due to a blot clot found in his leg, and that it traveled to his lungs, and he thanked everyone for their show of love and support.
Al made it seem that his recent health issue was simple, but his wife Deborah shared that he was quite sick and it was frightening. She said, ‘It’s not lost on us that this is a major, major thing for Al to be here. He is a living, breathing miracle.’ On top of the blood clots, he suffered from internal bleeding; initially, his team of doctors couldn’t find out the reason for it, and were forced to open him up to repair the damage to his body. Al lost half of his blood, but went into the operating room thinking that he would only have a single surgery but ended up with four. The doctors redid his insides as he had a couple of bleeding ulcers, along with a problem with his colon, and they also had to take out his gallbladder.
It happened weeks before Christmas, and Deborah recalled that she was thinking if he was going to make it to celebrate Christmas with them. However, her faith was restored when they had a conversation around is hospital bed – he told her that he wanted to cook Spatchcock Turkey for Christmas. She said that Al was confident that he would survive this complicated blood clotting issue, and true enough, the surgery was successful, and he was released during Thanksgiving.
The TODAY family brought holiday cheer to Al Roker’s door with an emotional surprise❤️
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) December 14, 2022
Went back to the hospital again
Just as everyone thought that Al was mending well in his home, he was rushed back to the hospital just a day after his release. His co-anchors from “Today” confirmed that he was hospitalized once again, and that it was due to complications but he was getting the right care. Everyone was alarmed since he posted about his current state with great energy on Instagram while watching the “Today” show coverage of the Thanksgiving parade.
2023 update on Al Roker’s health status
On 6 January 2023, Al Roker made it back to the small screen once again, and greeted everyone happily, saying that he was blessed to be alive. Amidst the thunderous clapping that the audience gave him, and some tears on the faces of his fans, the joker in Al couldn’t help but exclaim that he truly missed everyone, and it was great to be back wearing pants again. In another episode, his wife Deborah made a guest appearance, and shared some of the harrowing details that they went through. Al paid tribute to his wife and said that if not for her, he wouldn’t be here.
Given the accumulated effects of all the aforementioned operations, we don’t doubt that it’s true!