After health scare, KVUE anchor ready to return to work

Jenni Lee

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 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 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.”

From temp to perm: Jenni Lee staying at KVUE

Jenni Lee

Jenni Lee’s fill-in assignment anchoring KVUE’s weekend morning newscasts has turned into a permanent gig.

Lee had been subbing for Jade Mingus, who was on maternity leave. Mingus, however, has opted not to return.

“After a lot of prayers and tears, I decided to leave KVUE and stay home with my two sons,” she wrote in a Facebook message. “They are growing up so fast, and it was so hard to juggle my crazy schedule with a growing family. I’m sure a lot of moms can relate to the demands of work and home.”

Before joining KVUE on a temporary basis, Lee spent more than a decade at Fox-owned KTBC.

“Jenni is a talented anchor who connects well with our viewers because she is both trustworthy and personable,” KVUE executive news director Frank Volpicella said. “As a reporter she is a seasoned journalist who knows the Austin market and has a long list of contacts and reliable sources. I am pleased that she is now a member of my team.”

See Lee on the anchor desk from 7-9 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday on KVUE, plus catch her reporting from the field during the week.

“I’m thrilled to be working with such a talented and great group of people,” she said. “KVUE feels like home.”

More local TV staffing changes

  • Mark Monstrola has left KXAN. Monstrola, who started out as the station’s weekday morning meteorologist before shifting to weekend evenings, is now at the Fox station in Denver.
  • Lynae Miyer, who handled weekend evening weather duties on KVUE, has delivered her final forecast. In a Facebook message to viewers, Miyer said she plans to pursue a career outside TV news.

Summer shakeup: Familiar faces depart Austin TV stations

A summer shakeup is underway at Austin’s TV stations.

Former KTBC anchor Jenni Lee is filling in on KVUE.
Former KTBC anchor Jenni Lee is filling in on KVUE.

KEYE, KTBC, KVUE and KXAN have all seen staffers come and go in recent weeks.

At KEYE, Chrisdyann Uribe has signed on as morning traffic anchor. She arrives from a station in El Paso.

Ashley Roberts is now filing reports from KEYE’s Traffic Tracker in the morning and from the studio during the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscasts.

Fox-owned KTBC reports weekend meteorologist Scott Prinsen has left the station. He’d been there since 2004 and, before that, was at Time Warner Cable News.

Longtime KVUE reporter Shelton Green waved farewell to viewers last week.

KVUE weekend morning anchor Jade Mingus is off on maternity leave. Former KTBC anchor Jenni Lee will be filling in while she’s out.

“I’m thrilled to be part of the KVUE news team,” Lee said. “I’ve known many of them for several years and have always admired and respected them.”

And at KXAN, morning co-anchor Brian Sanders has left the station. The search is on for a replacement.