News anchor Julie Chin had the morning lined up for her audience in Tulsa, Oklahoma: weather forecasts for the long weekend, NASA’s rescheduled Artemis I liftoff and a rundown of the first weekend of football.
As she reported Saturday on the Tulsa Air and Space Museum’s plans to hold an Artemis watch party in its planetarium, something happened: She stumbled reading the museum’s name, then tripped over a description of the event.
“I’m sorry,” she told viewers of CNN affiliate KJRH. “Something is going on with me this morning, and I apologize to everybody. Let’s just go ahead and send it on over to meteorologist Anne Brown.”
Brown stretched her weather segment for as long as she could, and during a commercial break called 911.
“We needed to get off air. We needed to make sure that Julie was getting the attention that she needed,” Brown told the station in a later interview.
Chin was rushed to the hospital where she spent the rest of the weekend undergoing tests that revealed she had had what she describes as “the beginnings of a stroke.”
She just thought, ‘Focus harder’
Doctors explained that she had experienced the symptoms earlier in the broadcast when she could see only half the words appearing on the teleprompter. Chin thought something was wrong with one of her contact lenses. She fixed it during a commercial break, she recalled.
“It still looked funny, but I thought, ‘I can do this. I’m the only one there; I have to do this,’” she said.
Then her hand and arm went numb, but Chin brushed it off: “I am a doer. I am not a quitter, so I just thought, ‘Focus harder, Julie. Focus. You’ve got this.’”
She tried to text her husband, but again struggled with words, writing, “I need help. Something is not Run today. My work won’t work is working my help my…”
When Chin couldn’t enunciate the words she was reading on the teleprompter, she knew the problem was more than a contact that had slipped.
“I started to read, and the words would not come out of my mouth,” she said. “They were right in front of me, and I knew what I was reading and they just weren’t coming.”
In a Facebook post Sunday evening, about a day and a half after the incident, Chin thanked her viewers for their messages and wrote, “The past few days are still a little bit of a mystery, but my doctors believe I had the beginnings of a stroke live on the air Saturday morning. Some of you witnessed it firsthand, and I’m so sorry that happened.”
Chin felt great before the show and the symptoms “came out of nowhere,” she said. She described partially losing her vision in one eye before her arm went numb. She knew she was “in big trouble” when she couldn’t speak properly, and she thanked her colleagues for realizing there was an emergency unfolding.
“My Dad jokes this is the first extended period of time I’ve spent by myself since my son was born (in 2014), and he’s right,” she wrote Sunday. “I’m glad to share that my tests have all come back great. At this point, Doctors think I had the beginnings of a stroke, but not a full stroke. There are still lots of questions, and lots to follow up on, but the bottom line is I should be just fine.”
Turning experience to education
In a KJRH package that aired Tuesday, fellow anchor Karen Larsen interviewed Chin. Larsen found her at home resting and reported she appeared to be her “normal, happy, healthy self.”
“I’m just kind of taking it easy. I did open my work computer yesterday and my husband said, ‘Close that computer,’” Chin told Larsen. “The good news is that everything came out great, that they didn’t see anything major that was really scary to them. But the bad news about that is that we don’t know why it happens and it could happen again.”
Chin vowed to keep searching for answers and said she’d learned a lot about strokes. KJRH implored its viewers to learn the warning signs. The American Stroke Association encapsulates the symptoms in an acronym, FAST:
- Face drooping
- Arm weakness or numbness
- Speech slurred or impeded
- Time to call 911
Other warning signs include confusion, trouble seeing in one or both eyes, dizziness or loss of balance, a severe headache with no obvious cause and numbness in the face or leg, especially on one side of the body, the association says.
Chin says she’s a healthy woman and this is her first medical emergency, according to KJRH, and the anchor encouraged her viewers not to hesitate in calling medical professionals as soon as they see any of the aforementioned signs.
“If you need help, ask for help because I struggled not asking for help and I probably should have sooner,” she said.
Strokes can befall anyone at any age, said Cameron Richardson, the nurse manager for the stroke team at Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, where Chin was treated. He was emphatic that hasty treatment is vital. Call 911 immediately and be sure to let the dispatcher know you’re suffering stroke symptoms, he said.
“Every second matters,” he told KJRH. “Time is a huge factor. Time equals brain.”
‘Can’t live in fear’
About 800,000 Americans experience a stroke each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About three-quarters of those are first-time strokes, the center says.
Brown, the meteorologist, applauded her coworker’s efforts to tap her own experience to educate Tulsans on how to protect themselves.
“Only Julie could put into words and be so transparent with people on what she was going through, and I know that her message is going to save so many lives,” she said.
Chin will continue to undergo testing, she wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday, and she expects to be back behind the anchor’s desk “in a few days.”
“I may be a little nervous the first time I anchor, but I’m going to get back on the horse. Can’t live in fear,” she told Larsen. “God gave me this chapter for a reason, so I’m going to use it for good and I’m not going to let it stop me from doing anything.
“But maybe I’ll let it slow me down a little bit.”