Philly radio icon and longtime WIP host Big Daddy Graham has been off the air since Sunday night after a spinal cord injury forced him into surgery.
On the WIP Morning Show Friday, an emotional Ava Graham told listeners that her father went to the hospital Sunday night due to issues with his spinal cord. Graham said her father underwent successful surgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital on Tuesday, but added that his spine had endured a “major trauma,” and that as of Friday morning, he was “paralyzed from the waist down.”
“This came on all of the sudden,” she said, choking back her tears. “He didn’t fall. He wasn’t in an accident. It just happened.”
Graham said doctors told the family there was hope the longtime radio host and comedian would be able to walk again, but the sports talker faces a difficult recovery.
“It will be a long rehab process, but he is surrounded by friends and family that will continue to encourage him,” Graham said. “We just hope and pray he’ll be OK.”
“I’ll say on the air what I’ve said to you before: Your dad’s a strong man and he loves life, and he will fight, and he will win,” Morning Show host Angelo Cataldi, whose friendship with Big Daddy Graham goes back over 20 years, told Ava Graham.
Comedian Joe Conklin, a longtime friend who has hosted Two Funny Philly Guys shows alongside Graham for years, visited the sports talker in the hospital on Wednesday and said he was in good spirits.
“He was joking around in the hospital, offering to sing Christmas carols,” Conklin told the Inquirer. “But he’s got one hell of a fight. This one finally got his attention."
Graham, 66, was scheduled to appear with Conklin at a Two Funny Philly Guys show in Sea Isle City, N.J., next Friday. According to Conklin, the show will go on at Graham’s insistence, with comedian Jay Black stepping in to replace him.
Graham has battled through health problems in recent years — major back surgery, throat cancer, a staph infection, and a 2016 episode in which he was hospitalized after hiccuping for 41 hours straight.
“We did a show at the Colonial Theatre about five years ago. He got out of the hospital after having throat surgery where they found cancer. He could barely walk, and he was on stage two days later,” Conklin said. “He’s one of the toughest dudes I know. If anyone can handle it, it’s him.”