Tarek El Moussa's Bladder Nearly Exploded Due to Complications from Back Surgery: 'I Was Screaming' in Pain

The HGTV star opens up about a moment that could've been deadly in his new book, 'Flip Your Life'

<p>Michael Loccisano/Getty</p>

Michael Loccisano/Getty

Tarek El Moussa is no stranger to serious health scares.

the HGTV star opens up about a time when complications from surgery nearly caused his bladder to "explode" in his new book.

The house flipping expert experienced a tumultuous stretch of medical issues before the incident even occurred. Within a short period of time in 2013, he was diagnosed with both thyroid and testicular cancer — which he treated with several surgeries and radioactive iodine therapy. And less than nine months after finishing his cancer treatment, he slipped several discs in his lower back, pinching his sciatic nerve.

In his new book, Flip Your Life: How to Find Opportunity in Distress — in Real Estate, Business and Life (out now), he details taking "eight to ten" painkillers a day, including Vicodin and Dilaudid, which ultimately led him to consider back surgery as his best route to recovery. While he describes the operation itself in the book as “uneventful,” he says the complications afterwards could have been deadly.

“The catheter they had inserted at the hospital caused my urethra to close up. It should have been checked before I was sent home, but it wasn’t. My urethra had swollen shut,” he writes.

The Flip or Flop star recalls shuffling to the toilet only to lean “against the wall in agony: I couldn’t produce anything. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get relief. I couldn’t go to the bathroom.”

Related: Tarek El Moussa Finally Tells His Version of Gun Incident That Ended Marriage to Christina Hall (Exclusive) 

"By 6:30 in the morning, I hadn’t slept all night, and I was screaming. It was obvious that my bladder was about to explode, which was something I hadn’t considered during the night,” he writes. “Realizing I could actually die, I grabbed my phone and called 911.”

After he was taken by ambulance to the hospital, El Moussa says the doctors discovered a complete blockage from the swelling of his urethra. Once that was resolved, he still had to stay in the hospital for another week due to complications.

In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE last month, El Moussa opened up about the stress of his compounding health battles.

<p>Heidi Gutman-Guillaume</p>

Heidi Gutman-Guillaume

Related: Tarek El Moussa Says Relationship with Christina Hall Is Better Than It's Ever Been Since Split (Exclusive)

“I got my first cancer in 2013. I was fighting cancers in '13 and '14, and I had surgeries, and then for a few months I got better,” he said. “And then in '15, I hurt my back. For a year I could barely walk. And then after that I had that awful surgery with complications. So for four years, I just lived through hell.”

Thankfully, he's been on the road to recovering for some time. He kicked an addiction to steroids that also originated with his injury and its aftermath and got healthy. His marriage to Hall ended in 2016, but he's since remarried, to Selling Sunset alum, Heather Rae El Moussa, and welcomed his third child, Tristan in January 2023. Tarek and Hall also share daughter Taylor, 13, and son Brayden, 8.

Meeting Heather at a Fourth of July party in 2019 was “my breakthrough moment,” he says. “Ever since that day, I just haven't looked back and I'm just so happy and excited about the family I have today.”

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