Tag Archives: WAVE 3

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Triumph over Tragedy

Dawne Gee recounts her blessings after a stroke

Story by Lynn Choate | Photos by Danny Alexander

Who would have thought you could find blessings beyond measure after a stroke? Dawne Gee did. And in true triumph-over-tragedy fashion, she is recounting those blessings every chance she gets.

Just before Thanksgiving last year, Gee, 54, suffered what could have been a life-ending stroke while on the air as she anchored the WAVE 3 evening news.

In the week leading up to the stroke, she recalls feeling “just not right.

“I went to my rheumatologist, orthopedic specialist and an immediate care center all before attempting to finally take the doctors’ advice to rest,” Gee said. “My legs were swollen two to three times their normal size, and I just felt bad.”

Despite her best intentions, Gee didn’t get the rest her body so badly needed. On Thanksgiving Day, she was called to report live from the scene of a mass shooting at a well-known Louisville event.

She was back to work on Black Friday and remembers experiencing some chest pain. She had nitroglycerin tabs for angina, a heart condition that causes chest pain. By the time the 7 p.m. newscast started, she had taken three tabs and was counting down the minutes until she could go home. She told herself to just read what was on the teleprompter: “You can do that – just read.”

Little did viewers and her co-workers know, she was seconds away from having a stroke on live TV.

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“I remember tossing to the weather segment and feeling like I had to sit down while I was off camera,” she said. “I could hear (WAVE 3 Chief Meteorologist) Kevin (Harned) doing his weather forecast and preparing to send it back to me, but by then I was sitting on the floor and wasn’t sure how I would get back up.”

With all her might, Gee was able to pull herself up to a standing position as the camera turned back to her. She tried to speak, but she had no control.

“From there, I don’t remember anything until I woke up in the emergency room,” she said.

Gee was rushed to Norton Hospital. A team of physicians, nurses and medical personnel quickly assessed her condition and determined she was having a stroke and part of her brain was being deprived of oxygen-rich blood.

‘Cheering me on from the sidelines’

Now six months after her stroke, Gee is surrounded by cheerleaders — and maybe a few babysitters.

“Bless my family! They are by my side every step of the way,” Gee said. “They not only attend doctors’ appointments and physical therapy updates, they participate — asking questions and seeking out ways to make life better for me.”

Although her entire family — her children, grandchildren and siblings — have been rocks for her to lean on, Gee acknowledges that it is her mother who perhaps has been her biggest cheerleader through all of her illnesses and life crises.

“She never left my side,” Gee recalled, fighting back tears. “From the emergency room to the intensive care unit and the many weeks of therapy at Frazier Rehab, Momma never left my side.”

Her mother put the time spent with Gee in rehab to good use. She made more than 200 Hershey’s Kisses roses, a simple gesture to thank everyone who crossed the threshold of Gee’s door to care for her.

“If they cleaned my room, checked my vitals or brought me a dinner tray, Momma was thanking them with a Hershey’s Kisses rose,” Gee said. “Both my mother and father are real troopers.”

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Her parents also supported Gee while watching her calendar fill up over the past 15 years. She admits that in addition to her work schedule and a full plate of medical worries, she was committing to 200 or more speaking engagements in a year.

“There were some weekends that I would have four to six events over the course of two days,” she said. “Many times Momma and Daddy would go with me to these events, and in hindsight, I think they were watching over me.”

Although she admits to not saying it enough, Gee is learning to say “no” to some events and speaking engagements since her stroke.

“I don’t want to, but I have to,” she said. “I physically can’t keep up that schedule anymore. My body is recovering and I physically can’t do all the things I use to do.”

Truth be told, she shouldn’t have been overextending herself at all. She knows that now but admits that it’s hard turning down events when the causes are near and dear to her heart.

Gee has faced mixed responses from people when she has declined speaking engagements over the past few months.

“People see me on TV and think, ‘Oh, she’s doing great,’” Gee said. “What they don’t see is that I sit down during the commercial breaks, that I get tired very easily and that I get very anxious.”

All of these are common side effects after a stroke.

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‘If it hadn’t been for those around me’

When Gee started experiencing stroke symptoms, thankfully those around her knew the signs and acted quickly to get her lifesaving help.

Harned quickly noticed that something just wasn’t right.

“I noticed she was sitting on the floor rubbing her leg while I was doing the weather. I thought something was odd then, but we’re on live TV,” said Harned, a long-time friend and colleague of Gee’s. “Then I noticed as she began to give the news that she was slurring a bit and having trouble reading. Within seconds she was on the ground. I called out to the floor crew to call 911.”

Gee attributes the crew’s fast action with saving her life.

Aaron Ellis, assignment editor, was working that night but was in a different area of the building. He recalled the producer announcing over the building’s intercom that something was wrong with Gee.

“Everyone in the building, which was a skeleton crew because of the holiday, jumped in and did their part,” Ellis said. “I sent the reporter who initiated the 911 call into the studio to take over the on-air duties while I took over relaying information to MetroSafe.”

Having been co-workers and friends with Gee for many years, Ellis knew about her past medical history. He encourages everyone to be aware of their loved ones’ medical history and medications.

“Dawne is smart! She has most of her medical information stored on her smartphone,” he said. “I was able to access the information and relay it to MetroSafe during the call and with first responders who arrived on scene.”

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Although she doesn’t remember much from that Friday after Thanksgiving, Gee wanted to thank those who rushed to her aide. She received that opportunity recently when the Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Center reunited her and six other stroke survivors with their care teams.

At the event Gee became emotional when her own story was shared from the podium. One by one, members of her care team stood to be recognized.

“These people saved my life,” Gee said through tears. “Thank you isn’t enough.”

Today Gee is back to doing the work she loves, anchoring the news, helping others in need through her “Pass the Cash” TV segment and spearheading the charitable organization she founded, “A Recipe to End Hunger.” S

he continues outpatient physical therapy once a week. Over the coming months she is looking forward to transitioning out of medically-supervised physical therapy and starting an exercise program with a personal trainer.

“I’m hoping to lose a few more pounds and continue building up my strength,” Gee said. “I’m also working on getting my blood pressure more under control.” She continues to count her blessings for the people who support her along her journey.

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Get a Glimpse | Katie Bauer

WAVE 3 Reporter Katie Bauer gave birth to her son Quinn Dec. 29. Only hours later, she was working with this reporter to help get this story into print.

Compiled by Lisa Hornung | Photo by Danny Alexander

Katie Bauer’s dedication to her family and telling stories are what drove her back to her home in Southern Indiana, despite the difficulty of finding a job in the same market as her husband.

Bauer, 31, grew up in Floyds Knobs and now lives in New Albany with her husband Chris Sutter, a reporter and anchor for WDRB. The two met while students at Ball State University. After graduation, Bauer got a job in Lubbock, Texas.

“It was an experience,” she recalled. “People who live in Texas love Texas!” While it was a good place to start, Bauer said she always had her eyes on Louisville.

While Bauer was in Texas, Sutter was in Michigan. They tried to see each other once every six weeks, so there was a lot of traveling. Eventually, Sutter found a job in Lexington, and in 2010, Bauer was hired at WAVE 3. The couple lived in Frankfort, Ky., and commuted to their respective jobs. Even worse, they worked opposite shifts. The TV news schedule can be tough.

Enduring their tough TV news schedules paid off when Sutter got his job at WDRB, which is located in downtown Louisville, and they began working the same shift. The pair – and their new baby, Quinn – now live in Southern Indiana and are happy there.

“I’ve just been so impressed with the area since moving back.” Bauer said. “We lived in Louisville for a little bit, but I feel like when you’re from Southern Indiana, you’re always drawn back to Southern Indiana. Even when I lived in downtown Louisville, I’d find myself over here shopping, the restaurants, everything. And we do a lot of fun, fun stuff in Louisville. But now that we live in New Albany, I’m so proud of this community! Just in the last seven to eight years, how much it’s grown. The restaurant scene and the small shops, you can really do everything over here and still have that small-town feel. I kind of get the best of both worlds.”

Bauer is the Southern Indiana reporter for WAVE, which is unique because she covers her hometown. It gives her a clearer view of what matters to the people in the area.

Her first assignment was a house fire across the street from Floyd Central High School, her alma mater. “We had to park in the Floyd Central parking lot, and it was so weird,” she said.

Bauer goes back to Floyd Central a couple times a year to speak to students, but the school was completely remodeled in 2010, so she has trouble navigating it, she said with a laugh. “You run into people and see a lot of familiar faces,” she said. “A lot of my core girlfriends are still around here, so that’s nice.”

When Bauer and Sutter got engaged, Bauer took up running as a way to get fit for the wedding. It took. She has run the Chicago Marathon twice and run several half marathons. She’s planning to run the Triple Crown of Running this year, but with the new baby, she will see how things go. “I don’t know if I could ever do another marathon,” she said. “It’s so much work.”

Bauer hasn’t been able to run since early in her pregnancy, but she did continue to workout. She and Sutter are members of the YMCA, and she enjoys Pure Barre classes, too.

During her labor and delivery classes while pregnant, the instructor said that giving birth is like running a marathon. “A marathon lasts about four hours, so, if that’s how it’s gonna be … great!” Bauer joked. She wasn’t quite that lucky, but she and Quinn are both healthy, and Sutter is excited to be a new dad.

“Working in the news business, you hear about all the things that can go wrong. But it went well,” he said. “It’s a blessing for sure.”

Family is important to Bauer. She’s glad to have hers nearby, and her husband’s family is only four hours away. Her parents, Mike and Gail Bauer, still live in Floyds Knobs, while her three siblings are scattered about the Midwest. All of the family is excited about baby Quinn. “This will be first grandchild on both sides,” she said, “and the first niece or nephew for anybody.” But being a mom and managing a reporting career will be a challenge. Neither parent works typical hours for daycare, so a balancing act will likely ensue, which is just fine with Bauer, who enjoys her job at WAVE.

“I just love how community-driven WAVE is,” she said. “They understand the importance of not just covering metro Louisville. Obviously, that’s going to be our main focus, but there are so many communities that rely on us. I’m able to stay over here and tell stories that matter to Hoosiers. I think it’s awesome that they recognize that.”

Her station’s focus on people makes her job more rewarding.

“The media gets a bad rap a lot, and we become the punching bags, and if we can prove that we’re not just in it for the sensational stuff and we care about the pulse of the community, that’s great,” Bauer said.

Sutter has high praise for his wife.

“She’s just a good person, and that’s hard to find,” he said. “She’s driven, she’s ood at heart, she always wants to do the right thing and is nice to other people.

“She’s going to be a great mom; I can already tell,” the proud father said from the hospital room when his son was a mere day old. “She knows what she’s doing, and I’m excited for what’s next.”