News stories usually don't have happy endings. (That's why they're news stories.)
But one local news story about a newsman bucks that trend: KTVX-Ch. 4 anchorman Phil Riesen returns to the air tonight (at 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.) just 36 days after undergoing surgery for a brain aneurysm.And while the quickness of his recovery comes as quite a surprise, he's more than ready to get back to work.
"It's just been horrible to sit around the house and watch daytime television - and nighttime television - for the last week to 10 days," he said.
"Quite frankly, I feel great. I've got a very short haircut - which may start a new trend," Riesen said with a laugh. "That's the only visible change."
Riesen's troubles began on Super Bowl Sunday (Jan. 27) with a "massive headache, the likes of which I've never experienced before."
The pain remained to varying degrees throughout that week, but Riesen remained at the KTVX anchor desk because the February sweeps was beginning.
"To me, the (ratings) books are bibles," he said. "I feel really strongly about being on the air when it's a book."
In the meantime, he was undergoing various tests - which revealed nothing - and taking lots of aspirin and Tylenol. By Friday, Feb. 1, the pain was particularly intense. After the 5:30 p.m. newscast, Riesen drove himself to the hospital to undergo a spinal tap. That test finally revealed the brain aneurysm - a broken blood vessel - and surgery was scheduled for that Sunday.
"It was kind of a relief, actually, to finally figure out what was wrong and discover maybe they could fix it," he said. "But it was kind of frightening. Saturday night was a pretty scary night. Glenda (his wife), the boys and I held each other and talked."
Several hours of surgery went perfectly. According to Riesen's doctor, 50 percent of the people who suffer from the same type of brain aneurysm don't ever make it into surgery. And 50 percent of those that do suffer some degree of permanent impairment.
"And there's been no impairment whatsoever," he said. "It's miraculous. Either the good Lord has more work he wants me to do here or I've got some more repentance to do."
His recovery has been somewhat tense by uneventful.
"Something that's really helped is that we have received hundreds and hundreds of cards and get-well wishes - a lot from friends, but a lot more from people I don't even know," he said.
"I never really stop to think about the people I touch on a nightly basis. You look into a piece of cold steel and glass every night. You know that there are people out there, but sometimes you forget that.
"Something like this really brings home the fact that those people are out there and you have some kind of a connection with them."
Riesen isn't 100 percent recovered, however. He tires easily and will have to take it somewhat easy for a while.
He plans to be on the air at both 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. but won't be carrying much of a workload outside his on-air duties.
And his brush with death has given him some new perspectives on life.
"It's a rare opportunity when people get a chance to walk to the edge of their lives and then walk back again," he said.
"It made me realize that during the course of your life you tend to put things off. You plan to call a friend or do something helpful, but you end up saying, `Well, I can get to that this weekend.'
"I'm not going to do that anymore. I'm going to try to live every day like it's the last day I've got. You never know how quickly you can be taken."