“It was the worst thing … I’ve ever felt in my life,” Harris said in an interview with “Good Morning America.”
After the collapse, Harris was taken to a local hospital and then airlifted to Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Md. Where he was diagnosed with acute necrotizing pancreatitis. His pancreas was inflamed and beginning to die while his kidneys began to fail and his lungs filled with fluid.
Dr. David Efron, head of trauma at the hospital, described the findings of Harris’ CT scan, which were life threatening.
“It literally looked as if a bomb had gone off … where the pancreas resides,” Efron said.
For nine days Harris breathed though through a ventilator and drifted in and out of conscious while the doctor prepared his family and wife Dawn for the worst.
“He just said, ‘You know, people die from this.’ And when he said that I lost it. I just completely lost it,” she said.
Harris himself said he almost didn’t make it.
“On two different days I died,” he said. “I zeroed out and they revived me … I got sick and tired of trying to breathe.”
Harris, who described being on the ventilator as “trying to snorkel across a lake breathing through a cocktail straw,” said he was ready to die.
“And I closed my eyes and I happened to see Dawn’s face … And I said, ‘I can’t quit on her. If I quit on her, I’m going to go to hell, and if I go to hell, I’m not going to go to hell for quitting,'” he recalled.
Then, just as suddenly as it came on, the pancreatitis subsided. The reason he developed pancreatitis is unclear as Harris was seemingly healthy, didn’t drink much and worked out regularly.
The doctors said the illness could’ve stemmed from his family’s history of gallbladder problems. Acute cases like Harris’ go undiagnosed until they are severe because the warning signs are similar to food poisoning.
Harris is now back at home. He has one-half of a pancreas left, but it’s functioning well. And tonight, for the first time since his illness, Harris will return to the WJLA anchor desk for the 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts.
“If I die twice on the table and I’m still here … God kicked my butt out of Heaven twice, so I’m supposed to be here,” Harris said, laughing. “I can’t quit.