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Published: Thursday, 11/17/2011

WTOL's Melissa Voetsch still on medical leave

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

WTOL-TV, Channel 11, morning anchor Melissa Voetsch remains on medical leave from the station with no date set for her return. Voetsch is suffering from myocarditis, a condition that severely affected her heart muscle, so that it was only functioning at 15 to 20 percent of its normal rate.

In a recent report from her co-morning anchor Jonathan Walsh, Voetsch said she woke up Oct. 19 and was experiencing difficulty breathing. She was rushed to the emergency room where a cardiologist diagnosed her condition, which may have developed as a result of a lengthy bout of pneumonia this summer.

Voetsch was put on a ventilator in the ICU for days. Her heart muscle had weakened and one of the valves was and still is leaking. She returned home, but the front part and the latter portions of her heart are still not functioning normally.

"Where do I need to be? We need it about 55 [percent]. So I'm at 30," she told Walsh.

Voetsch is wearing an external defibrillator that will shock her heart if it gets into a critical stage again. And as part of her regimen to improve her condition, she's exercising more, eating healthier, and taking higher doses of medication.

A married mother of three, including a child with special needs, Voetsch plans to return to WTOL anchor duties as soon as she's able.

To temporarily fill Voetsch's position, traffic reporter Tina Shaerban has assumed anchor duties for the hour-long 9 a.m. News 11 Your Day. Walsh, Voetsch's co-anchor on the 4:30 through 7 a.m. newscasts, will continue to go it alone until she returns.

C.J. Hoyt, WTOL's news director, said the station remains anxious to have Voetsch back, but her return will be dictated by her and her doctor.

"As soon as she's better and can come back we'll welcome her with open arms," he said. "We can't wait to see her. [But] it all depends on how she responds to treatment. Our first priority is making sure she gets better."

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.



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