How TCM Helped Me Recover from a Stroke

On April 6, 2017, we were scheduled to be at the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival. It would have been our fifth TCMFF, and we were beyond excited to fly to LA. On April 3rd, life had other plans for us.

The Monday before the festival, as I was headed into work as an IT engineer, something felt off. I got to work and got down to the business of the day. In the middle of my second client phone call, I was unable to speak correctly. I went to my boss who immediately knew something was wrong. He drove me to an Urgent Care who promptly sent me to Duke Medical Center where I was admitted under suspicion of having had a stroke.

Kami and Chris
The Classic Couple

My other half, Kami, arrived at the hospital, and we learned I would be admitted as a stroke patient. At 45-years-old and with no prior symptoms, doctors were baffled at what had caused my stroke, and I was soon to be subjected to tests and therapies to determine how severe my stoke was and what damage may have been done to my brain and my faculties.

Kami moved into the hospital with me, where we stayed for a week. She cancelled all of our travel plans and worked with the TCMFF organizers, who graciously refunded our festival passes. I was discharged as a stoke survivor, and we went home on Friday ready to face the unknown and begin a recovery journey.

That weekend we began a long road to recovery, one that lasted longer than we expected. Thanks to my employer, I worked at half-time capacity for eight months and underwent a series of therapies to bring back my motor and speech skills, which were diminished after the stroke. I also credit my acupuncturist for helping me recover. Along the way, I had a number of tests and ongoing visits to my neurologist, who I credit for saving my life and setting me on a course to a full life.

Flash forward one year and Kami and I returned to the 2018 TCM Film Festival. We took it easy at the festival, taking extra care with my walking to check my balance and to ensure I did not get too tired, which was when my “stroke-like behaviors” would become more evident. I had come a long way and to most people my post-stroke symptoms were not very noticeable. I likely came across as someone with a speech impediment more than anything else.

While at the 2018 TCMFF, we met and ate breakfast with a very lovely woman named Pam. At the time, Pam was the Washington DC-area TCM Backlot Chapter president and asked if we had a chapter in our Raleigh, NC area. As the answer at the time was no, she offered to introduce me to Yacov Freedman, currently a senior producer at TCM who at the time oversaw the Backlot Chapters.

Yacov welcomed my interest in standing up a TCM Backlot Chapter in our area, and before long we had a chapter of which I was President and Kami was “First Lady.” Once the news went out about our chapter, we gained 90 members within the first few months.

I never hid from our chapter members the fact that I was a stroke survivor. At times in my early recovery years I struggled with my speech and getting “the words out” during meetings. Never once did anyone do anything but show me kindness, patience and support. Being a leader at a time when I could have faded into the background enabled me to practice my public speaking and to gain back my confidence.

We have since converted our group to the Triangle Classic Movie Club (TCM Club), and I am proud to continue to serve as president of a group of what I now call friends. The 35 current members continue to be patient with me when I may get fatigued in our meetings, especially over the past two years while we have been having two-hour-long virtual meetings. I do sometimes struggle to remember certain movies or facts and sometimes it takes me awhile to express myself fully, but I know I am in a safe space among the club members.

On this, the 5th anniversary of my stroke and what we call my “Stroke-iversary,” I cannot thank TCM, Yacov Freedman and the members of our TCM Club enough. I credit them for how I present myself to the world as a stroke survivor and a classic film fan. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

3 thoughts on “How TCM Helped Me Recover from a Stroke

  1. Hi,
    A friend in the TCM group shared your story with me. What a wonderful place to be after having gone through a very scary physical condition onset. The support of so many caring friends and acquaintances plus, of course, family leaves us with a real joy of living. My stroke last October was very mild, but things simply didn’t feel right and my balance was initially shot, although nearly normal now. This followed a major surgery and may have been related; therefore, the stroke gave me a second dose of the caring of others which was nothing short of overwhelming.
    I am so happy for both of us.

    1. First of all, glad you are doing well after your stroke. Having family and friends to support your recovery is everything. Thanks for reading and for sharing your story, Mike. Here’s to moving from surviving to thriving!

  2. CHRIS, What an inspirational story! You are a very special person to have overcome such a difficult challenge with dignity and class! No one would ever guess what you have been through. You are doing a FANTASTIC job on TCMC and I am proud to call you my friend !
    All the best,
    Caroline Lappetito

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