Leon Harris has been absent from the airwaves since the start of August, but that was no vacation. It was a near-death experience.
Home now, the WJLA (Channel 7) anchor told our colleague Paul Farhi on Wednesday that he spent nearly three weeks in the hospital — and was in and out of consciousness for several days — with what turned out to be a wicked case of necrotizing pancreatitis.
Where’d that come from? All Harris knows is that he collapsed at home with a terrible stomachache the morning of Aug. 1. At Suburban Hospital, doctors puzzled over the sometimes-deadly infection. Harris, a fit 52-year-old, said they quizzed him on his drinking (beer on weekends), family history (a couple of diabetic relatives) and vitamin supplements, but found no answers. “It could have been a perfect storm,” he said. “They just don’t know.”
And Harris, airlifted to the Johns Hopkins ICU in a worsening stupor, was beyond knowing. He knew how serious it was only when he hazily glimpsed his mother, brother and out-of-town friends at his bedside. His blood pressure raged at a level that put him at risk of a stroke; his lungs filled with fluid; he tried to tear out his feeding tubes. At one point, he found himself relaxing to welcome death — but then envisioned his wife, Dawn, and thought: “I can’t quit. I don’t want to go to Hell for quitting.”
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