Arnold Schwarzenegger says open-heart surgery 'disaster' nearly killed him

FILE - Arnold Schwarzenegger talks during a pre-show BMW keynote at CES 2023, Jan. 4, 2023, in Las Vegas. Actor and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to open the White House Correspondents' Association dinner on Saturday, April 29, with a pre-taped video about the importance of a free and independent press. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)
Arnold Schwarzenegger detailed how an open-heart surgery nearly ended his life. (Jack Dempsey / Associated Press)

Arnold Schwarzenegger totally recalled the details about undergoing a botched open-heart surgery.

The procedure took place "just a few years ago," Schwarzenegger said in a YouTube video, noting that it happened right before he was scheduled to start filming 2019's "Terminator: Dark Fate."

"I woke up and all of a sudden the doctors were in front of me saying, ‘I’m so sorry but it was unlike what we planned,'" the "Total Recall" actor said. “[They said] we made a mistake and poked through the heart wall and had to open me up very quickly and to save [my] life. I was really freaking out."

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The 76-year-old star called the event a "disaster" and said that his recovery from what was supposed to be a noninvasive surgery was difficult. The first step for Schwarzenegger was embracing a shift in his mindset.

“The bottom line is, you cannot roll the clock back. It was a disaster. I was in the middle of a disaster. So now how do I get out of it? You have to shift gears,” he said. “Collect yourself, shift gears and say, ‘OK, what I need to do now is get out of this hospital.’”

The former California governor's progress was incremental. He started by getting out of bed and taking 10 steps with a walker and progressed from there. His determination to get moving was aided by an anxiety-inducing message from his doctor.

“I looked like an idiot waddling around the hallway, but the bottom line was the doctor said you have to exercise your lungs because if you get pneumonia you can die,” he said.

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Schwarzenegger credited his friends and family for helping him get through the recovery process.

"I even called my buddies [into the hospital] and I said, 'You guys have to fire me up,'" he said. "I had to be in shape [for the new Terminator movie], I had to move around, run around, lift things up, do the fight scenes. And we did it because I had a positive attitude, I knew exactly how I was gonna get there, I had the support system — because none of this we can do by ourselves."

Earlier this year, Netflix released a three-part documentary called "Arnold" that detailed the bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-politician-turned-actor again's roller-coaster life. Notably, Schwarzenegger owned up to some of his mistakes — and self-described “failures” — in the docuseries, addressing the groping and cheating scandals that ensnared him during his foray into California politics in the early 2000s and led to his split from journalist Maria Shriver.

Times staff writer Nardine Saad contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.