Jayne Miller has been off the air for most of the past two months, and not because the WBAL-TV reporter has been working on a big story. She had brain surgery.
A Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon "punched two holes in my skull," Miller told me the other day. "You know the phrase, 'I need that like a hole in the head'? I've got two of them."
Miller, 53, hasn't battled anything worse than a cold in recent years. But a virus she caught in February became a "cascading health event" from which she is only now recovering.
The virus made her violently ill, and without getting too graphic here, the violence apparently took a toll on her spine, creating a tear that allowed spinal fluid to leak. Miller developed excruciating headaches that subsided only when she lay down. Doctors eventually discovered the leak and patched it, but blood and spinal fluid had collected in her brain. So she needed surgery.
"The neurosurgeon said this is really just a little bit of surgery" compared with some of the very complicated operations performed at Hopkins, Miller said. She was in the OR for 90 minutes on a Friday, and by that Monday, she was back home - albeit under restrictions that have kept her from returning to work or even picking up her golf clubs. (She has recently lifted the phone a few times to work sources for station colleagues.)
The surgery left Miller with two rows of staples in her skull and a deep appreciation for her general practitioner, Redonda Miller, who is no relation but sounds just as dogged as her patient.
"She just stuck with it," Miller said. "She never stopped trying to figure out what's going on."
Recovery has been going well. CT scans - Miller was to have her 13th yesterday - are looking good. She isn't sure when she'll get back to the station, but she said the whole episode has been "a life-changing event."
The hard-bitten reporter won't go soft on local pols and cops, will she?
"It's just a couple holes in my skull," Miller said with a laugh. "There's no other impact."
Just more of those wacky Hopkins folks
Johns Hopkins is already known as a world-class university. It would also like to be known as a place where people have fun. Which is why it's selling itself in a new TV ad with this unlikely duo: a Nobel laureate and a champion jump roper.
Peter Agre, who won the 2003 Nobel Prize in chemistry, appears with Hopkins junior Wren Haaland, 2006 international jump rope champion. Haaland is shown jumping throughout the spot. She also does most of the talking, introducing herself and Agre.
"What do we have in common?" she says. "Passion."
"That's why we're here," Agre chimes in, offering Haaland a high-five and "bravissimo!"
(I don't want to quibble with a cute ad, much less a Nobel laureate, but shouldn't it be "bravissima"?)
Hopkins spokesman Dennis O'Shea said the spot is intentionally offbeat.
"We wanted to do one that was a little bit different," he said. "No green quads. No clock towers. No bells tolling. No students strolling or doing lab work. Something that would get a little attention and challenge people to admit that there might be something more about Johns Hopkins than they've always assumed."
The ad airs tomorrow night at 6 on ESPNU during the Hopkins-Duke men's lacrosse game. You can also see it at http:--www.jhu.edu/passion/.
Just a defender of embattled industry
Washingtonian magazine just came out with a list of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," a dozen people "standing in the way" of saving Mother Earth. Among them: Michael Powell of Baltimore's own Gordon, Feinblatt, Yadda, Yadda & Yadda.
Powell said he hadn't seen the article, but he wasn't surprised.
"If you are in a situation where you're fairly high profile, people have strong opinions," he said. "If you represent large industry, which is what I do, then some people are going to oppose anything you want to do."
But Powell, who represents the Maryland Industrial and Technology Alliance, said his fan base actually might be expanding - now that some labor unions have joined the fight against a state global warming bill.
"The biggest lobbyists on the global warming bill this year are the steelworkers," he said. "One of the funniest things I saw all year, the unions were hosted by the Maryland Republican Party when the debate [on the bill] happened on the Senate side. I'd never seen that happen before. They actually played host to them in the Republican caucus room."
Connect the dots
The ex-commish is on the move. Ed Norris takes his WHFS show to afternoons starting Wednesday. The 3 p.m.-to-6 p.m. time slot will give him a crack at drive-time listeners. "The potential audience is bigger, but there's also stiff competition, so we'll see," he said. Filling Norris' old 10 a.m.-to-1 p.m. slot will be Brian Wilson, half of the Dundalk-bashing Brian & O'Brien Show that ruled Baltimore's morning airwaves in the late 1970s and early '80s. ... Bob Ehrlich made one of his twice-yearly visits to Towson University professor Richard Vatz's class yesterday. Vatz reports that the students were "simply mesmerized" by the former Gov, who perhaps missed his calling. "He could have been a university professor," Vatz e-mailed me, "but I don't suggest that because I don't need the competition." ... ESPN Zone reports a few Orioles sightings this week: On Opening Day, starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie came in for dinner with about a dozen family members. The next day, left fielder Jay Payton came in for lunch with a few friends.