Radio newsman Martin Giles returns after on air health scare and three months of recovery
Even now, Clear Channel Radio newsman Martin Giles says he doesn't remember the on air incident which left some listeners wondering whether they had heard him have a stroke during a news break.
But nearly three months after the moment Jan. 21 when Giles repeatedly fumbled during a report on WFLA-AM (970), trying unsuccessfully to pronounce simple words, the newsman returned to work this morning -- enjoying the resumption of a job he's held for 25 years.
"I think it was a cold or some sort of complex that came back to haunt me," said Giles, 74, who doesn't remember the struggle to speak or leaving the station after the episode, resisting efforts by staffers there to stop him and learn what happened. As the newsman would learn later, he drove home, locked the front door behind himself and went to bed. "My wife told me I was near death...But I don't remember any of that."
Giles said he was unconscious for four days after the incident and was hospitalized for a total 10 days, suffering from a malady he still finds difficult to describe. He noted that he still struggles sometimes to find the right words, which may make writing newscast scripts more of a challenge.
His daughter, WUSF-FM (89.7) news anchor Susan Giles Wantuck said the aphasia was not caused by a stroke, but occurred while he was suffering from a bad case of pneumonia compounded by a brain infection. He was unconscious for days, she said, because he was sedated.
When the episode occurred, some people who heard the broadcast e-mailed the St. Petersburg Times and called WFLA, asking if Giles had a stroke on air. But the newsman's family declined to comment and officials at WFLA said rules about publicly disclosing employee health information kept them from revealing many details.
A native of Plant City, Giles started in broadcasting with Armed Forces Radio in the mid '50s; he's worked at WFLA since 1985.
To prepare his news reports for Clear Channel's morning radio shows, Giles rises at 2:30 a.m., arriving at his office at 4 a.m. to hit the air by 5 a.m. Still, with all that's happened, Giles isn't thinking about retiring or pulling back.
And he remains grateful to Clear Channel for allowing him to return, less than a week after a doctor cleared him to resume his duties.
"I don't feel slowed down by it," said the newsman. "This doesn't bother me at all."