He told fans on his blog, “I had finished my last shoot after a long reporting trip to Japan and the Philippines and was stacking the Pelican cases brimming with TV gear onto my cart. As I tried to bungee cord them into some semblance of security for movement, one of the cases toppled onto my left forearm. Ouch! It hurt, but I wasn’t all “911″ about it. It was painful and swollen but I figured it would be okay without any medical intervention.”
By Feb. 14 the pain and swelling were so bad that he went to see a doctor who had him admitted to the hospital. Emergency surgery was recommended to relieve the pressure, but the procedure didn’t go as planned.
“Of course I wasn’t awake for the action but I was told later that things tanked even further once I was on the table,” he said. “And when I lost blood pressure during the surgery due to the complications of compartment syndrome, the doctor made a real-time call and amputated my arm just above the elbow. He later told me it all boiled down to a choice… between a life and a limb.”
O’Brien continued, "So I woke up to a new reality in the hospital. It’s been a challenging week dealing with the phantom pain, the vicissitudes of daily life with one hand and the worries about what lies ahead.”
The 54-year-old spent 16 years with CNN before launching his own production company in 2008. He regularly works with PBS, Discovery and others.