Tracy Morgan was overcome by emotion during an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer — his first since a car accident left him in a coma, and his friend James McNair (also known as Jimmy Mac) dead, nearly one year ago.
Morgan has made few appearances since his accident — he was spotted with a walker in December and said he was “fighting every day,” setting off a flurry of prayers and well-wishes on social media — and news of his recovery has been kept under wraps.
While most of the attention has been focused on Morgan’s recovery from his physical injuries (he suffered a traumatic brain injury as well as a broken femur, leg, nose, and ribs, and still uses a cane to walk), Morgan told Lauer that the emotional trauma of losing his friends has been far harder to deal with. “Bones heal, but the loss of my friend will never heal,” he said, gulping back tears.
Part of that emotional recovery has included coming to grips with Mac’s death, as brutal as it was. “Every day I would just watch the accident on YouTube,” Morgan told Lauer. “And one day I came across his funeral on YouTube, and I lost it for about a week. I didn’t know what happened to my friend. And I had to know. I had to pay my respects. And that was my way.”
His emotional struggle is made that much harder by the symptoms of his brain injury, Morgan told Lauer. “There are times where I have my good days and my bad days. Where I forget things. There are times where I got the headaches and the nosebleeds, and I won’t even let my lady know because I don’t want her to be worried about it.”
As shaken by grief as Morgan appeared, he was also overcome by gratitude for those who helped him immediately, during the accident, and during his continuing recovery. He thanked “all of the people on the highway there that night, that stopped to get us out,” naming several drivers who helped pull him to safety that night, as well as helicopter pilots, ambulance drivers, and police.
Tracy also thanked the doctor who helped him at JFK Medical Center, Dr. Brian Greenwald, as well as the nurse, Jackie, who helped him come to grips with the tragedy after coming out of his coma.
“When I first came out of the coma, I was a mess,” Morgan told Lauer. “I sat with her every day, I would throw things at her, and the only thing she had to say to me was ‘Everything is gonna be all right.’” Weeks later, when Morgan had moved to a rehabilitation center and began his recovery, he saw Jackie again. “I just grabbed her and I wouldn’t let her go and I just said, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
While the exact details of the extent of Morgan’s injury are still not known,the effects of severe traumatic brain injury do take “a long time” to subside, Robert Cohen, PsyD, a neuropsychologist at Orlando Health, previously told Yahoo Health. “After a severe injury, by and large, depending on the parts of the brain involved, it can take two to two-and-a-half years to get to a place where you’ll peak.” However, a person who experiences a TBI may never return to the same level of “normal” from before the accident.
While Morgan’s obvious heartbreak was sobering, so was his humor-free demeanor. He cracked no jokes and no smiles, and his voice broke with tears as he spoke with Lauer. Will he return to comedy? Yes, says Morgan. “I love comedy, and I can’t wait to get back to her, but right now my goal is just to heal, and get better. ‘Cause I’m not 100 percent yet.”
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