Jenni Lee was in the middle of anchoring KVUE’s “Weekend Daybreak” when it happened.
Blurry vision. A hellacious headache. Nausea. Something was clearly very, very wrong.
“I couldn’t even read the TelePrompTer,” she said. “I went straight to the ER after that.”
After some tests, doctors told her, in essence, that part of her brain was dangling into her spinal column. Subsequent neurologist visits confirmed she had an ailment known as Chiari Malformation One.
Lee has been off the air since, but after a three-month leave she’s feeling better and ready to return. Look for her to pop up this weekend. Then, after a long-planned trip, she’ll be back on the anchor desk for good.
“All the people who prayed, all the messages … they really do mean the world to me,” she said. “I’m going to choose to believe it worked. They carried me through. I want to thank everyone.”
That includes her husband, in particular, who cared for their son and performed countless other tasks while Lee was bed-ridden.
“He was the backbone of the family,” she said. “When I couldn’t do anything, he did everything.”
Doctors don’t know why the crippling pain has lessened, Lee said. Should it return, the longtime Austin news anchor could be forced to undergo surgery to remove part of her skull, relieving built-up pressure.
“The brain is a big mystery,” she said. “We’re not sure why the symptoms stop or when they could come back.”
One thing that’s not a mystery is what likely triggered the symptoms of Chiari Malformation One. Lee said she was skiing earlier this year when she fell, her head slamming into some ice.
“The symptoms typically present themselves in people in their 20s through 40s after they’ve had a head injury,” Lee said.
While the worst symptoms have largely subsided, Lee said she still is dealing with a number of issues such as pain in her neck and arms and tingling in her hands. She plans to ease her way back into work, with the help of colleague Cori Coffin, who will co-anchor with Lee this weekend to make sure everything goes okay.
“KVUE has been wonderful. They’ve really worked with me,” Lee said. “They’ve done everything possible to make sure my transition is a successful one and, for that, I’m truly thankful.”
KVUE gets new news boss
A new boss is calling the shots in the KVUE newsroom.
The city’s ABC affiliate has hired Tim Ryan to serve as news director.
Ryan arrives from KUSA, the NBC affiliate in Denver, where he’s been assistant news director since 2000.
Both KUSA and KVUE are owned by Tegna.
Ryan replaces Mike Redding, who is departing after less than a year on the job for another position with Tegna.
“Tim has been on the forefront of innovation and excellence at KUSA,” KVUE president and general manager Kristie Gonzales said. “We’re happy to have his immense skillset in the building to continue the ratings and digital momentum at KVUE.”
Prior to Denver, Ryan worked as an anchor, reporter, photographer, producer and assignment editor at TV stations in Wichita, Kan., and Fort Smith, Ark.
Ryan has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism and a master’s from the University of Colorado at Denver.