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Ex-CNN Anchor Miles O'Brien Loses Arm

Former CNN anchor and all-around good guy Miles O'Brien had what he figured was a simple accident earlier this month. It ended with the amputation of his left arm above the elbow.
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Five years ago, TV journalist Miles O'Brien was dealt one final insult by the idiots who ran CNN. After enticing him away from a steady gig hosting a dayside show in Atlanta and uprooting his entire family, relocating them to New York City so Miles could co-anchor American Morning, CNN reshuffled the deck and took him off the desk, busting him back to reporter just a little more than a year-and-a-half into the new gig. Not long after that, the network laid O'Brien off along with the rest of CNN's science and technology unit.

At the time, the president of the network was a mercurial asshole named Jon Klein. It was he who pulled the likable Bill Hemmer off American Morning in the first place and decided to "experiment" with the team of O'Brien and O'Brien -- the other O'Brien being Soledad -- and it was he who had another one of his famous "Eureka!" moments, spun the Wheel-of-Anchors and replaced the O'Briens with John Roberts and Kiran Chetry in 2007. TV isn't exactly a business where you can ever expect much in the way of stability and job security, but that kind of thing wasn't simply the nature of the beast -- it was borderline sociopathic incompetence.

I was fortunate enough to work with Miles on American Morning and it'll surprise no one who watched him regularly to learn that he was and is a really great guy: incredibly smart, engaging, funny, always professional -- Miles is genuinely one of the good ones (and there are increasingly fewer and fewer of those out there).

Since leaving CNN he's produced and reported for PBS, written for True/Slant, and acted as an independent journalist, often covering the subjects he loves: science and aerospace. But Miles's life has now changed drastically.

On his personal blog -- in a piece posted yesterday titled "Just a Flesh Wound," because that's the kind of biting humor you'd expect from him -- Miles tells about an accident he had while on assignment recently that he believed at the time wasn't a big deal. He dropped an equipment case on his left arm, which was certainly painful but probably not much cause for alarm -- until it began swelling up. Once he got to the doctor, he was diagnosed with "Acute Compartment Syndrome," which means that the injury had caused a build-up of pressure in his arm that was cutting off blood flow. His forearm was getting numb and changing color, so the doctor rushed him into the OR for an emergency fasciotomy -- in which the connective tissue around the muscles is cut open to relieve the pressure -- but during the procedure, the problem got much worse.

Miles describes what happened next:

It was getting real. Of course I wasn’t awake for the action but I was told later that things tanked even further once I was on the table. And when I lost blood pressure during the surgery due to the complications of compartment syndrome, the doctor made a real-time call and amputated my arm just above the elbow. He later told me it all boiled down to a choice... between a life and a limb.

Miles goes on to say that he's grateful to be alive and he's getting along as best he can. It's almost impossible to imagine what he's going through, what it would be like to have a simple accident and for it to ultimately end with the loss of an arm. But Miles is a strong guy and he's got a lot of support from those who love and respect him. All any of us can do is wish him the best because he absolutely deserves it.

Another mark of his sense of humor comes at the very end of his post yesterday. Here's the closing line:

Life is all about playing the hand that is dealt you. Actually, I would love somebody to deal me another hand right about now – in more ways than one.

God that sucks. Good luck, man.