Jeannie Mai Opens Up About How She 'Almost Died' While Competing on 'Dancing With the Stars' (Exclusive)

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Brandon Armstrong and Jeannie Mai
Kelsey McNeal/ABC via Getty Images

Jeannie Mai is sharing more details about her life-threatening health scare.

Back in November, the 41-year-old co-host of The Real abruptly exited Dancing With the Stars due to health concerns. Now, ET is exclusively premiering the all-new episode of Hello Hunnay, in which Mai is joined by her former pro partner, Brandon Armstrong, to discuss everything that happened in the days leading up to her emergency throat surgery.

"Ariel's back, b***h! She found her voice," Mai jokes at the beginning of the episode, referencing The Little Mermaid. "Some of you may have heard that I recently got really sick. I saw a doctor who correctly diagnosed me and saved me from possibly losing my ability to breathe. 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 in Dancing With the Stars."

"I'm gonna keep it trill, we really thought we could take that mirrorball," she continues. "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."

Mai says she woke up with "a heavy sore throat" the following day, and called Brandon to cancel their practice for the first time all season. She then went to see a doctor who misdiagnosed her, shot her up with steroids and told her she just had a simple sore throat. 

"The next day, of course I stayed consistent and rescheduled the rehearsal with Brandon," Mai recalls. "I was almost dying in that room, but I didn't know it [at the time] because I was pushing through and hyped up on steroids."

After feeling continued pain the next few days, Mai consulted Brandon on what to do. From his own experience, the pro dancer advised Mai not to take any more steroid shots. (He previously got a steroid shot in order to perform when he was experiencing pain in his Achilles, but ended up tearing the tendon because he couldn't feel anything.)

"What I was dancing with was a numb neck because I couldn't feel anything when it was really closing up," Mai remembers. "My throat was 60% closed. It was numb, but it was closed. After I went home, I wrote a letter to [my fiance] Jeezy and said, 'Hey, I'm going to go to bed at like 9:30. I feel terrible. 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.'"

Mai says she woke up the next day around 5 a.m. and could not breathe.

"I was literally like gasping for air," she recalls. "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."

That's when Jeezy rushed her to urgent care. She was misdiagnosed a second time, and was about to go through with dancing on the show, until a friend called and said she was "going to the wrong type of doctor." Her pal suggested she go to an ear, nose and throat doctor instead.

"I obliged, because of J, went there and found out that my throat was going to close in the next few hours," Mai reveals. "I called Brandon and was so upset. Was absolutely enraged in tears, like, 'They're making me do this, I'm so sorry." 

Watch below to hear what happened next:

The new episode -- which officially premieres Thursday at 1 p.m. ET on the Kin Network -- comes just a few weeks after the TV host's official return to The Real. Reuniting with co-hosts Adrienne Hough, Garcelle Beauvais and Loni Love, Mai gave the ladies an update on how she's been doing post-surgery.

"You don't understand, I want to group hug everybody!" Mai explained at the time. "You guys kept me company every single day. I've never really watched our show from the couch, you know what I mean? So I was able to binge-watch everything. I played along the games with you guys, I loved glam every day. It was so good."

"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. So I really thank you guys for holding it down and just keeping me company. 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!"

Hear more in the video below.

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