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The anchor's anchor: Lee Sausley credits wife, Kelly, with his health

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Posted at 9:26 PM, Oct 24, 2019

If recent experience has taught Lee Sausley anything, it's that he should always listen to his wife, Kelly.

"She sorta saved my life," he said Thursday afternoon with a sheepish grin. "I didn't think it was anything too serious. She did. Which was really lucky for me."

After working outside on his car on Labor Day almost two months ago, Lee said he noticed his voice starting to slur.

"It wasn't slurred," Kelly said. "He sounded like he had cotton in his mouth."

Lee said he went inside to get ready to go to dinner with friends and realized the right side of his face was numb, and his right hand was starting to tingle.

But, as most people would, he brushed it off and went to dinner. But he continued to feel worse.

"My wife, bless her heart, said 'This is not right. We're gonna take you to the emergency room,' " Lee said. "So off we went."

He admits not thinking his symptoms were "anything too serious."

It turns out his symptoms were those of what he said were a minor stroke.

"If I had waited until the next day like I intended to do," he said, "I'd probably be paralyzed on my entire right side."

In order to access his blocked carotid artery, doctors made an incision that basically runs the length of his neck, between his chin and collarbone. They then made an incision in the carotid -- the major artery which supplies blood to the brain, face and neck -- and removed the blockage.

The carotid artery is about the width of a pinkie finger, he said, holding up his own. Doctors told him his blockage was such that only a stream of blood as wide as a toothpick could pass.

But Kelly said doctors told her that because he is in such good physical condition, he bypassed the cardiac ICU and was taken to a regular hospital room. Two days later, he was released.

A week later, he was ready to come back to work -- or so he thought. His doctors knew better, and said no.

"Turns out I didn't have the energy to do that anyway," he said.

But the surgery also came with a complication that had never occurred to Lee: trauma to his vocal chords.

"That's the main reason I've been out," he said. "My voice has been very weak from that trauma to the nerve."

But his progress has been remarkable. What usually takes four- to- five months of recovery has taken Lee only two.

He's ready to come back to work, and is scheduled to return to anchoring sometime next month.

In the meantime, he's at home recovering and spending time with Kelly and their three dogs. Their daughter is away at college.

He paints, builds model planes, and is getting used to a new plant-based diet.

"I'm not gonna be a vegan," he said. "But (I'm eating) a lot of vegetables: kale, cabbage, green beans, squash, zucchini ... all those things that are really good for you."

That includes lean proteins, including chicken, pork and seafood.

But for an admitted fan of Tex-Mex, and foods with variations of the word "fry" in them -- fried fish, fried shrimp, french fries -- he said the change hasn't been a jarring one.

"I grew up with grandparents who had a big farm with a vegetable garden, so I like everything but beets,

"So I'm doing pretty well," he said with a laugh, "in that respect."