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WFLA's Martin Giles returns to air three months after on-air health scare

Even now, Clear Channel Radio newsman Martin Giles says he doesn't remember the on-air incident that left some listeners wondering whether they had just heard him have a stroke.

But nearly three months after he repeatedly fumbled a news report on WFLA-AM 970, trying unsuccessfully to pronounce simple words, Giles returned to work Monday — 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. "My wife told me I was near death. … But I don't remember any of that."

The news anchor said he was unconscious for four days after the Jan. 21 incident, where he seemed to suffer from aphasia, a condition in which subjects lose the ability to speak coherently.

After trying twice to get through his report, Giles asked the show's producer to move on and left the building, resisting attempts by staffers to stop him. He drove home and went to bed, seemingly unaware there was a problem.

Giles now says he was hospitalized for a total of 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. But the newsman's family declined to comment then 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.

"I don't feel slowed down by it," he said. "This doesn't bother me at all."

WFLA's Martin Giles returns to air three months after on-air health scare 04/11/11 [Last modified: Monday, April 11, 2011 9:38pm]
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