Former CBS 8 anchor Barbara-Lee Edwards embraces new life two years after near-fatal brain injury

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Barbara-Lee Edwards considers herself a lucky woman. She has a wonderful, supportive family, a home and a community of friends she loves in Leucadia and throughout her adult life she has been blessed to work in the profession she loves as a TV presenter. tv news. She is also lucky to be alive.

For nearly 20 years, Edwards anchored evening newscasts on KFMB-TV CBS News 8 in San Diego. But after the 11 p.m. broadcast on December 23, 2020, she suffered a near-fatal brain hemorrhage at her home.

After a 10-month hiatus from the station, Edwards officially stepped down in October 2021 to focus on his recovery. Now, as the two-year anniversary of her brain injury approaches, Edwards said she realized she would likely never be able to return to live-streaming. But a world of other possibilities awaits you.

“I lead a full life now,” she said in an interview at a Leucadia cafe on Nov. 3. “I hope to return to tennis soon. My husband and I have just enjoyed our first two-week vacation. And I have found the pleasure of cooking and cooking again.

Barbara-Lee Edwards plays catch with her golden retriever, Charlotte, at the Maggie Houlihan Memorial Dog Park in Encinitas on November 7.

(Ana Ramirez/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Edwards said she’s also open to the idea of ​​returning to television one day, but in a different capacity. She would love to do pre-recorded segments, maybe about her own health journey, or maybe even write a book about her survival. But she’s in no rush.

“I don’t want to put a date on it or push it too hard,” she said. “My overwhelming feeling right now is that I’m just grateful to be here.”

Edwards said she went home from the December evening news and just posted a holiday message to her friends and fans on her Instagram page (instagram.com/barbaraleenews8). Then she bent down to put something in her closet and she felt something pop in the back of her brain. Excruciating pain radiated from his head and neck and through his body in waves. She remembers tripping, telling her husband, Curtis Walz, that something was terribly wrong, and then vomiting from the severe pain.

After an ambulance ride to Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas — which at the time was overflowing with COVID-19 patients — she underwent a brain scan which showed a significant amount of blood in her brain. She was then rushed to the intensive care unit at Scripps Memorial La Jolla where she would spend 10 days returning from the abyss.

Edwards had suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage or a burst vein in his brain. She later learned that most people who suffered an injury as severe as hers do not survive. Yet even though she made it through, the bleeding left lasting damage. Edwards said she struggled with searching for words in conversations for a long time. His eyes became very sensitive to light and his ears to loud sounds. She suffered from persistent flu-like symptoms and fatigue, and she had serious sleep problems.

“Doctors described my brain injury as if I was living the rest of your life with a concussion,” she said.

Portrait of Barbara-Lee Edwards

Barbara-Lee Edwards is still recovering from a near-fatal brain hemorrhage in December 2020, which forced her to give up her longtime job as a local television news anchor.

(Ana Ramirez/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Doctors told Edwards she could expect to see some recovery over two to three years, and there have been improvements. But after undergoing recent cognitive exams, Edwards said his doctors discovered that the part of the brain that allows him to multitask — especially in high-stress situations like a live TV show — doesn’t had not recovered. Edwards said her husband also noticed that she tended to have a “grey period” in the middle of the afternoon, where her brain got a little foggy.

Although she said the TV station had been “very kind” in inviting her back to some degree, she wouldn’t want to come back until she was ready, both physically and emotionally.

“There’s something about exposing what’s wrong with me that I’m not sure about,” she said. “Maybe I could just get on the air and talk about my experience of navigating the world with a brain injury and show people the reality of that. And maybe I could just laugh it off and carry on.

Edwards grew up in the small coastal town of White Rock in the Vancouver area of ​​British Columbia. Her mother was a nurse and her father was a litigator. Like her father, Edwards was involved in theater in high school, but she also had a passion for journalism. It was while in college, studying for a degree in English, that she began volunteering at Shaw Cable station in White Rock and got her first taste of broadcasting as a unpaid host of some TV interview shows. She knew at 20 that she had found her dream job.

Her first paid job outside of broadcasting school was at Channel 13 in Vancouver, where she worked the night desk, listening to scanners to gather news and write one-minute reports, which she delivered hourly. until sunrise in the empty tv studio. In two years, she rose through the ranks to do sports and weather reporting.

From there, she moved to an affiliate station in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where she hosted her own news show. Two years later, she was recruited to the Canadian Television Network news station in Winnipeg, where she anchored the 11 p.m. shows and met Walz, who worked at the station as a news cameraman. They married and had the first of two children, daughter Kristen Walz, who was 4 when they moved to Leucadia in 2001.

Barbara-Lee Edwards plays with her dog, Charlotte, at Maggie Houlihan Memorial Dog Park.

Barbara-Lee Edwards plays with her dog, Charlotte, at Maggie Houlihan Memorial Dog Park on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in Encinitas.

(Ana Ramirez/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Edwards said she first heard about an opening at CBS News 8 in San Diego from an agent who bought her tapes from television stations in the United States. She was unable to audition in person because she was in Canada. But she and her husband were so excited about living in sunny Southern California that she decided to try her luck one more time. While on a family vacation to Disneyland, she called News 8, told them she was in the area, and asked if she could come over for an impromptu audition.

When the station agreed, she and her husband drove from the Anaheim theme park to a friend’s house in Mission Viejo, where they dropped off their daughter and Edwards borrowed clothes and shoes to wear. Walz drove and waited in the station’s parking lot while she spent two hours auditioning with then-anchor Michael Tuck (“who couldn’t have been nicer”). A week later, he was offered the job.

During his two decades at CBS 8 News, Edwards anchored two to three evening newscasts one day. Career highlights included an interview with President Obama and a live show with Anderson Cooper. She walked and reported live from the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk in San Diego for 17 years, she did regular segments on health and “friends of pets” for years, and she hosted several times at the American Heart Association’s Red Dress Gala Luncheons.

Alongside Edwards for most of those years was his co-anchor Carlo Cecchetto, whom Edwards describes as his “little brother” who made the news set fun every day. She has also formed a close bond with Marcella Lee, who took over as Edwards’ anchor last year, with Edwards’ blessing.

Edwards worked such long hours during his many years at the station that this unexpected career break gave him more time to appreciate what he was missing. Before the brain injury, she said, she had a Type A personality. Now she doesn’t sweat the small stuff: “Now there’s so many things I don’t care about.”

Edwards said one of her favorite pastimes these days is going to the dog park with her 8-year-old golden retriever, Charlotte. She and Walz, who is now a broker for Compass Real Estate, also recently returned from a long trip to Europe. She also appreciates having more time to connect with their children. Kristen Walz, now 26, works in production at CBS News in New York with the goal of writing for television and film. And their son Brady Walz, 19, is a college student and musician who plays in several local bands.

Edwards said she was asked if leaving CBS News 8 meant she would now return to Canada. But she put those rumors to rest.

“We are here because we love it. I never want to leave again,” she said. “My son was born here and my daughter grew up here. This will always be our home.

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