Morning Anchor On Fox News Has Overcome Many Struggles In Her Life, Loves Charleston
Jeff Walker, Entertainment Writer
A fixture on the Fox News since 2010, news anchor Heather Childers prided herself with her work ethic, avoiding taking sick days until a much needed surgery sidelined her in July of 2018. Childers was diagnosed with cervical spinal stenosis with myelopathy, a condition that causes compression of the spinal cord in the neck, most certainly due to injuries she suffered during a car wreck at age 16.
"Prior to my surgery I could count the days I took off on one hand.. It's just not who I am. I have a very steady work habit, and I enjoy what do." After ignoring the signs of her medical condition for months, including numbness, dropped foot, stiff neck, and falling down, Childers decided it was more serious than just fatigue, diet, or to much caffeine, but still put it off. "I sensed something was happening, but my dad was dealing with prostate cancer, so I didn't want to burden my mom with another family medical issue."
Upon discovering prolonging the surgery could leave her paralyzed, she went ahead and scheduled the operation. "I rely on my faith in God a lot, but it was still a bit scary. I consulted five different neurosurgeons and there was no alternative. I had to have the operation. Without surgery I would have definitely ended up paralyzed. They literally had to open up three areas in the spinal column of my neck, and then use bone grafts to fuse the areas back together, securing it all with metal plates and screws."
The car accident during her teenage years may have been the early genesis, for the damage to her spinal column in her late 40's. "Really God spared me back then. My face went straight on into a metal steering wheel. It was a very dark time in my life. I had to have my jawbone, cheeks, and teeth worked on, and around my eyes."
Many would concur at 50 Childers is a beautiful blonde haired woman with a welcoming smile. She doesn't feel the same. "When I look in the mirror I still see the broken face from when I was 16. Issues with my spine wasn't something I thought of, but both have made me stronger, and more thankful. Believe me, I realize how lucky I am. There's not a day that goes by that I don't recall the accident. It hasn't defined my life but I still remember it to this day. And now the surgery from last year is still ever present on my mind, mostly due to the changes it's caused in my life."
An avid outdoors person, Childers has had to alter her usual routine. "I've been roller blading since I was 18. Can't do that right now. I've always been very active, whether it's running or biking. I like to think I've always been athletic. I am back to riding a stationary bike and elliptical trainer. The only thing I probably won't ever do again is rollerblade because of balance issues. Not doing that is somewhat disheartening. I have great doctors and I have to follow their advice."
The silver lining in her latest ordeal is that she is still mobile and back at work. "I only took eight weeks off. Fortunately I had a lot of support during the operation and recovery. My mom and sister came up to New York to be with me during the surgery. My boyfriend took care of me in New York right after the surgery, and 10 days later I was able to go back to North Carolina and spend time with my family."
She credits the good Lord for putting her in the right place at the right time. "Thankfully we have many medical professionals on staff at Fox News, and they were able to get me in touch with the right doctors and surgeons, who specialized in what I was dealing with." Childers was treated by Dr. Paul McCormick with the Spine Center at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. "Easily one of the best neuro-surgeons working today."
Her road to Fox News appears to have come about by divine intervention as well. "I arrived here in October of 2009, which means I'm about to celebrate 10 years with the network. But prior to that I had been trying for 18 years to get to New York, and with Fox since they signed on air in 1996. I went to a news conference that same year and ever since that time I told myself to keep trying."
In the interim she was honing her craft at television news stations in both North Carolina and Georgia. She worked for the Fox affiliate in Albany Georgia, making a stop in Asheville before returning to Charlotte. But after nine years in the Queen City it all came to an end.
"I was with the station for nine years and they didn't renew my contract. With no television job offers on the table, I took a PR position with the Charlotte Motor Speedway. It wasn't long after I held the job I realized it wasn't for me. I wanted to be back in news."
She did what many of us do. "It was around midnight one evening, and I got up and kneeled beside the bed and prayed to God for some kind of sign. All I could envision was send another email to Fox News. It kept hearing, 'try one more time'. I didn't have anyone's email address but took a chance on some email exchanges at foxnews.com and attached my resume. I kept on praying and two weeks later I get a call from the network. I was on I-77 and I pulled off the road to take the call. A week later I'm in New York."
Childers was one of the early recruits for the new morning line-ups Fox was lining up. She worked as an anchor for on America's News Headquarters, before settling in on Fox & Friends First, a lead in to the network's popular three hour Fox & Friends show. "I did the 5-6am show when we first launched."
Her time slot now (4am) has her getting up very early. "I get up at midnight. I get myself mentally prepared, go over some news segments, and be in the chair (hair & makeup) by 2am. By 3:45am I'm in the studio getting ready to go on air. It's a crazy cycle but I've gotten use to it."
Apparently she lives on adrenaline, admitting she doesn't get enough rest. "During the week I probably don't get enough sleep. With the type of work I'm in, you have to stay informed. If there's a political debate or a town hall meeting I'm usually up watching what's happening. Oftentimes I'll go to bed late and still get up at midnight. There are times I'll get a nap in the afternoon. On a good night I'll get four to four and a half hours of sleep. Obviously I'm used to it. Been doing it for several years."
After she's off the air at 5am there is still much to do. "We normally have a story meeting around 6:30am to plan the next day. We discuss topics, and guests scheduled to be on. I hang around until 10 or sometimes noon. I fill in as needed on air. In the afternoon I will do some kind of workout or walk. Later in the day I'm catching up on all the news that unfolds during the day. Maybe I'll get a quick nap, but they are rare."
More than a year removed from her spinal surgery, Childers remains positive. "I'm still not doing everything I want to do, but I have much to be thankful for. The doctors didn't guarantee me a full recovery, only that the compression in my spine wouldn't progress. I'm mindful of that every day. I have a great job, and a great support network at Fox News. Plus I have my faith and my family. I have been blessed."
She credits her family, and her long time boyfriend for providing comfort and support when she needs it. "He's a radiologist in Charlotte. He was able to give me advice when I was going through the surgery. He's been a blessing in my life." The good doctor owns a house on the Isle of Palms which brings Childers to the low country on a regular basis.
"I absolutely love Charleston. I love the the beach communities and the food. It is a great place to relax. I love Isle of Palms, Sullivans Island, and downtown Charleston. Everytime I'm there I have to eat at Pearlz (oyster bar). I also love the beauty and the history of Charleston. I once reported from Patriots Point."
A few little known facts about Heather Childers. Although most bios list her as a Charlotte native, she was born in the palmetto state. "Hartsville, South Carolina to be exact. Moved to Charlotte when I was in the second grade." She was named Little Miss Darlington Speedway and Little Miss South Carolina. "I got into pageants and competitions as a result of twirling the baton."
In 1993 she was named Miss Charlotte Mecklenburg. "I entered pageants for a chance to sing and perform on stage and ultimately win scholarship money." Childers has also sang once in Las Vegas. "I sang at the Dunes & Tropicana in Las Vegas. There was a time in my life I wanted to pursue a career in country music. Thankfully news is where I'm better suited."
Childers admits to being a sports enthusiast, and a University of South Carolina fan by default. However her allegiance lies with her alma mater. "My sister went to USC so yes I am a gamecock fan. But I went to UNC-Chapel Hill so when it comes to the battle of the Carolina’s in my family, I’m a Tarheel!"
At 50, Childers has gone through many challenges in her life. Does she plan on putting them down in book form like several of her colleagues, including Dana Perino and Janice Dean. "I'm still working on that. The car wreck was a big deal. Working in Charlotte, praying about what would come next for me, and dealing with my dad's cancer and my own surgery have been turning points for me. I've dealt with many struggles in my life, as many of us do. One thing I know for certain, God has kept me around for a reason."
With 24 hour news coming from various outlets and online sources, Childers agrees we've become a little overly politically correct (PC) in America and around the globe. "We have a lot of big topics out there, and a lot of questions we need answers to. Are we overly PC, perhaps. Most of it is brought on by social media." Childers hopes viewers relate to her employers latest mantra, 'most watched & most trusted news network'.
Low country conservative news junkies can catch Heather Childers from 4-5am on your local Fox News Channel. "If you're up early, or just happen to still be awake because you work odd hours, than that's where you'll find me. And who knows, maybe you'll see me in and around Charleston."