Former CBS 8 anchor Barbara-Lee Edwards embracing new life two years after near-fatal brain injury
For nearly 20 years, Edwards anchored news broadcasts in San Diego. Now the Leucadia resident is planning for a different future
Barbara-Lee Edwards considers herself as a lucky woman. She has a wonderful and supportive family, a home and community of friends she loves in Leucadia and for all of her adult life she’s been lucky enough to work in the profession she loves as a television news anchor. She is also lucky to be alive.
For nearly 20 years, Edwards anchored the evening newscasts on KFMB-TV CBS News 8 in San Diego. But after the 11 p.m. broadcast on Dec. 23, 2020, she suffered a near-fatal brain bleed at her home.
Following a 10-month leave of absence from the station, Edwards officially stepped down in October 2021 to focus on her recovery. Now, with the two-year anniversary of her brain injury approaching, Edwards said she has come to realize she’ll probably never be able to return to live broadcasting. But a world of other possibilities awaits.
“I’m leading a full life now,” she said in an interview at a Leucadia coffee shop on Nov. 3. “I’m hoping to get back to playing tennis soon. My husband and I just enjoyed our first two-week vacation ever. And I’ve been enjoying cooking and baking again.”
Edwards said she’s also open to the idea of someday returning to television, but in a different capacity. She’d love to do pre-recorded segments, possibly about her own health journey, or maybe even write a book about her survival. But she’s in no rush.
” I don’t want to put a date on it or push too much,” she said. “My overwhelming feeling right now is I’m just grateful to be here.”
Edwards said she had returned home after the nightly newscast that December night and had just posted a holiday message to friends and fans on her Instagram page (instagram.com/barbaraleenews8). Then she bent over to put something away in her closet and she felt something pop in the back of her brain. An excruciating pain radiated down her head and neck and pulsed through her body in waves. She remembers stumbling, telling her husband, Curtis Walz, something was terribly wrong and then she vomited from the severe pain.
After an ambulance ride to Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas — which was overflowing at the time with COVID-19 patients — she underwent a brain scan that showed a significant amount of blood in her brain. She was later rushed to Scripps Memorial La Jolla’s intensive care unit where she would spend 10 days coming back from the abyss.
Edwards had suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage, or a burst vein in her brain. She later learned that most people who suffered an injury as severe as hers don’t survive. Yet while she did pull through, the hemorrhage left lasting damage. Edwards said she has struggled for a long time with word-finding in conversations. Her eyes became very sensitive to light and her ears to loud sounds. She has suffered enduring flu-like and fatigue symptoms and she has had serious trouble sleeping.
“The doctors described my brain injury as like living the rest of your life with a concussion,” she said.
Doctors told Edwards that she could expect to see some recovery over a two- to three-year period, and there have been improvements. But after undergoing some recent cognitive exams, Edwards said her doctors found that the part of the brain that allows her to multitask — particularly in high-stress situations like a live TV broadcast — has not recovered. Edwards said her husband has also noticed that she tends to have a “gray time” in the mid-afternoons where her brain gets a little foggy.
Although she said the TV station has been “very kind” about inviting her to come back in some capacity, she wouldn’t want to return until she is ready, both physically and emotionally.
“There’s something about exposing what’s wrong with me that I’m not sure about,” she said. “Maybe I could just go on the air and talk about my experience of navigating the world with a brain injury and just show people the reality of that. And maybe I could just laugh about it and go on.”
Edwards grew up in the small coastal town of White Rock in the Vancouver region of British Columbia. Her mother was a nurse and her dad was a trial lawyer. Like her father, Edwards was involved in high school theater, but she also had a passion for journalism. It was while she was in college, studying for a degree in English, that she started volunteering at White Rock’s Shaw Cable station and got her first taste of broadcasting as the unpaid host of some TV interview shows. She knew by age 20 that she’d found her dream job.
Her first paid job out of broadcasting school was at Channel 13 in Vancouver, where she worked the overnight desk, listening to scanners to gather news and write one-minute news reports, which she delivered every hour until sunrise in the empty TV studio. Over two years, she worked her way up to doing sports and weather reporting.
From there she moved to an affiliate station in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where she anchored her own news show. Two years later, she was recruited to the Canadian Television Network’s news station in Winnipeg, where she anchored the 11 p.m. broadcasts and met Walz, who was working at the station as a news camera operator. They married and had the first of their two children, daughter Kristen Walz, who was 4 years old when they moved to Leucadia in 2001.
Edwards said she first heard about an opening at CBS News 8 in San Diego from an agent who was shopping her tapes around to TV stations in the U.S. She didn’t make the cut for an in-person audition because she was in Canada. But she and her husband were so excited about the idea of living in sunny Southern California that she decided to give it one more shot. During a family vacation to Disneyland, she called News 8, told them she was in the area and asked if she could come in for an impromptu audition.
When the station agreed, she and her husband drove from the Anaheim theme park to a friend’s house in Mission Viejo, where they dropped off their daughter and Edwards borrowed some clothes and shoes to wear. Walz drove and waited in the station’s parking lot while she spent two hours auditioning with then-anchor Michael Tuck (“who couldn’t have been nicer”). A week later she was offered the job.
During her two decades at CBS 8 News, Edwards anchored two to three evening newscasts a day. Career highlights included interviewing President Obama and doing a live broadcast with Anderson Cooper. She walked and reported live from the Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk in San Diego for 17 years, she did regular health and “pet friends” segments for years and she emceed the American Heart Association’s Red Dress gala luncheons many times.
By Edwards’ side for most of those years was her co-anchor Carlo Cecchetto, who Edwards describes as her “little brother” who made every day on the news set fun. She also formed a close bond with Marcella Lee, who took over Edwards’ anchor position last year, with Edwards’ blessing.
Edwards worked such long hours during her many years at the station that this unexpected career break has given her more time to appreciate what she’d been missing. Before the brain injury, she said, she had a driven, Type A personality. Now she doesn’t sweat the small stuff: “Now there are so many things that I just don’t care about.”
Edwards said one of her favorite pastimes these days is going to the dog park with her 8-year-old golden retriever, Charlotte. She and Walz, who’s now a broker for Compass Real Estate, also recently returned from a long trip to Europe. She also relishes having more time to connect with their children. Kristen Walz, who’s now 26, works in production at CBS News in New York with the goal of writing for television and film. And their son Brady Walz, 19, is a college student and a musician who plays in several local bands.
Edwards said she’s been asked whether leaving CBS News 8 means that she will now move back to Canada. But she has put those rumors to rest.
“We’re here because we love it. I don’t ever want to leave,” she said. “My son was born here and my daughter grew up here. This will always be our home.”
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