Sunday, April 21

John Ritter Died on Daughter’s 5th Birthday — He Worried He Was ‘Ruining Stella’s Birthday’

John Ritter passed away tragically on his daughter’s birthday.

John’s wife, Amy Yasbeck, is on a mission to ensure no one dies the way her late husband did.

Twenty years after John’s death, Amy still misses him and hasn’t dated anyone since her husband died.

John Ritter was a husband, father, and American actor. He was born on September 17, 1948, in Burbank, California. John and his wife, Amy Yasbeck, got married on September 18, 1999. They share one child, a daughter, Stella Ritter, who transitioned on her 18th birthday in 2016. She boldly decided to change her gender to male and now goes by Noah Lee Ritter.

John was previously married to his first wife, Nancy Morgan, whom he shares three kids with: Jason Ritter, Tyler Ritter, and Carly Ritter. He died on September 11, 2003, leaving behind his wife, four kids, and ex-wife.

John Ritter, Stella Ritter, and Amy Yasbeck during the premiere of "The Country Bears" in Hollywood, California on July 21, 2002 | Source: Getty Images

The actor, whose acting career flourished for over three decades, died of undetected aortic dissection. Just before his death, John was on the set for rehearsals of “8 Simple Rules.”

On that same day, John’s child with Amy, Stella, was celebrating her fifth birthday. While on set, John experienced severe nausea and vomiting and was rushed to Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California.

Amy was at the hospital with him, and she recalled that her late husband felt bad he was “ruining Stella’s birthday” with his illness. The actor smiled at his wife, and Amy noted that she said “I love you” to him.

Amy Yasbeck, Stella Ritter, and guest at the 14th Annual DesignCare event in Malibu, California on July 21, 2012 | Source: Getty Images

Amy and John had learned to say ‘I love you’ in American Sign Language, which they used to sign to each other when they were on stage. So, after Amy told her late husband she loved him, he signed it back and held the sign as he went around the corner. This became the last time the actress saw John alive. The next time she saw him, he was dead.

John, 54, was pronounced dead at 10:48 p.m. to the shock of his family, friends, and the Hollywood community. Amy recalled feeling everything was going wrong prior. She said she heard someone say code blue and a crash cart being rushed and wondered what was happening. A doctor then told the actress that John had an aortic dissection, a term she had never heard of.

An aortic dissection, as per the American Health Association, occurs when pressure on the artery wall due to blood flow spikes. The pressure causes the inner layer of the aorta to split open. Cardiologist Joseph Lee, who treated John before his death, thought his test results were showing abnormalities related to a heart attack.

Amy said she wasn’t in the mood to date and that dating would just make her miss her late husband more.

John Ritter's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame memorialized with flowers and gifts by fans | Source: Getty Images

Medical documents show that Joseph ordered anticoagulants and was about to conduct a cardiac catheterization, but John’s condition took a turn for the worse. That’s when doctors found the aortic dissection, a tear in the biggest blood vessel in the human body. This tear, which causes the death of 50 percent of patients before they reach the hospital, also led to John’s death.

John died on his daughter’s birthday. Stella, who now goes by Noah, leads a private life after his transition. The actor’s son is on X but has protected his posts. Noah’s bio reads, “I don’t use social media anymore much, a private guy… rarely accept follow requests. have a nice day.”

In turn, John’s wife felt the actor’s death could have been prevented. She filed a wrongful death suit seeking compensation of $67 million from Joseph, who treated John before his death, and radiologist Matthew Lotysch, who interpreted the body scan the actor received in 2001.

John had a full body scan in 2001, which Amy argued through her lawyers should have detected that John had an enlarged aorta. Joseph and the hospital he worked in were blamed for not carrying out an X-ray, which Amy, through her lawyers, said should have shown an enlarged aorta and resulted in emergency surgery.

Stella Ritter, John Ritter, and Amy Yasbeck at the Daytime Emmy Awards in New York City on May 1, 2001 | Source: Getty Images

Amy’s wrongful death lawsuit went on trial, and a Glendale jury cleared the two doctors of negligence and liability in John’s death. The jury felt the doctors did everything they could to detect his illness and prevent his death. Now, Amy chooses to honor her late husband’s memory by raising awareness of what caused his death, an aortic dissection.

Amy wanted to use the money from the lawsuit to start a foundation. However, her lawyers didn’t win the lawsuit. Still, Amy forged ahead with her plans and started the John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health.

The “Sweet Dreams” actress urged patients to ask their doctors to check their bodies for “that John Ritter thing.” She added that people find out they have this illness in such a manner all the time.

Many people have thanked Amy for raising awareness of aortic dissection. When they go to the emergency room with chest pains, they ask to be checked out for the thing that ended John’s life. The actress said the foundation has saved lives as aortic dissection is now at the front of people’s minds.

Amy Yasbeck and John Ritter during St. Jude Runway for Life in Beverly Hills, California on August 19, 2003 | Source: Getty Images

The John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health Foundation website has indicated the Ritter Rules, which people can use to detect, treat, and prevent aortic dissection. The foundation also raised funds to develop a Ritter Score, which they say will be a life-saving diagnostic tool to ensure correct, fast, and effective diagnosis of aortic dissection in emergency rooms.

Amy has honored John’s life through the foundation and helped save lives through its funds and information on aortic dissection. The mom of one has also lived 20 years without her loved one by her side. She confessed in 2022 that she still misses John as a partner.

The 61-year-old revealed that she hasn’t dated since John died because she feels he is always with her. Amy said she wasn’t in the mood to date and that dating would just make her miss her late husband more.

Amy isn’t ready to date, but the foundation and her acting career have kept her busy. In 2020, she said she was ready to go back to acting and be a part of families and communities with her fellow cast members. The sweet memories she has of her husband also keep her going and happy.