Former CNN Anchor Miles O’Brien Talks About Life After Arm Amputation

Former CNN Anchor Miles O’Brien hasn’t had much of a joy ride over the last few years following an unceremonious departure from CNN. Recently he suffered an accident that led to the amputation of his left arm. Now O’Brien is opening up about it all in a new piece for New York magazine.

O’Brien, whose left arm was amputated following an accident while on assignment as a freelancer for the PBS Newshour, has been all over television and the internet in the months since the incident. As he put it in the article, he had no choice. He had to make a living.

“As a freelancer, I eat what I kill. I had spent a lot of money on travel, and on hiring local help. I had to deliver the completed work or take a huge loss. So I wrote my scripts, and when friends and family checked in, I acted as if all was well. When they found out later, most of them understood my decision.”

O’Brien had been in Asia working on several stories, including one on the Fukushima nuclear disaster that occurred as a result of the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that struck the nation of Japan. Even after having his arm removed after a freak accident while in the Philippines, he still finished the reports and began making appearances on television again. But he wasn’t sure how long his TV career would last.

“My other big worry had to do with my livelihood. I am in a business where looks matter, and I wasn’t aware of any one-armed TV correspondents. Would my empty sleeve end my on-camera career?

“At the PBS NewsHour, where I am treated like family, they were just as accepting and supportive as my own children. When I asked if I should shoot and edit around my disability, my boss told me, ‘No one cares. Just be your smart, engaging self.'”

While undoubtedly reassuring, the real kicker for O’Brien was when he got the call he hadn’t been expecting just weeks after losing his arm — CNN.

“We had been in a committed relationship for 17 years when she dumped me in December 2008. It was a bitter breakup, but I had moved on. Now she was obsessed with the missing Malaysian airliner, and I am a pilot and aviation geek. I was the right guy—once again.

“They wanted me on the air as fast as possible. No one gave a damn that I could count only to five on my fingers. I called it my ‘Vindication Tour.’ It would’ve been sweet enough even if I still had two hands. But for a newly minted amputee unsure of my future, it was the best medicine imaginable.”

O’Brien discusses the ups and downs he’s experienced and the reaction of his children and girlfriend to the accident. He also talks about how every little thing has to be rethought since he can no longer do the simplest tasks in the same way.

His is a story that needs to be read by everyone.

[Image via Flickr Creative Commons]