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 1 Malformation.
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 Saturday and Sunday. 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 1 Malformation. 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 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. “Still, I’m nervous. It’s been three months. In the back of my head, though, I know it’s like riding a bike.”