A Second Chance at Life

Mark McEwen almost died from a stroke. Now he’s sharing his insights to raise awareness about the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

For 15 years, Mark McEwen was the weatherman for the national television show “CBS This Morning.” While at CBS, he also worked as an entertainment reporter, covering 16 Oscar, Grammy, Golden Globe and Country Music Association award shows as well as three Olympics. But Mark’s career, and his life, almost ended when he suffered a severe, almost fatal stroke. Mark recently talked with MyHealth to discuss his experience and his work to raise stroke awareness.

HP: When did you have your stroke?
MM: It was November 15, 2005. I had been feeling weird for a few days and went to a hospital ER, where I was diagnosed with the flu. Two days later, I was flying home to Orlando when the stroke occurred. I had no idea what was happening. I was just trying to move forward moment by moment, thinking that my distress would pass away. What was really disturbing is that no one on the plane recognized that I was having a stroke. Neither did anyone at the airport after I landed. They thought I was intoxicated. Finally, an ambulance took me to a hospital in Orlando. I was in a coma for two days. The doctors told my wife that they could do a procedure to boost my blood pressure that would either save me or kill me. Fortunately, it worked or I wouldn’t be here today.

HP: Were you aware of having any risk factors before the stroke?
MM: None whatsoever. I had absolutely no knowledge about strokes. There was no family history. I never thought about the possibility. Before the stroke, I could never even imagine, not in my wildest dreams, that I would be stroke survivor one day.

HP: How debilitating was the stroke?
MM: Very debilitating. If I had known how difficult my recovery was going be at the beginning of the process, I would have been very afraid. I went through a year of physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. I had to learn to walk again, to talk again, even to swallow again. My right hand is still shaky, so I’ve taught myself to do just about everything with my left hand: eat, shave, brush my teeth. I was determined to get the life back

HP: And how are you doing today?
MM: I’m making progress every day. And I’m so thankful to be back on television here in Orlando.

HP: What actions are you taking to reduce your risk for stroke and heart disease?
MM: Every day, when I wake up, I know it’s my responsibility to do whatever it takes to stay healthy. So I exercise and eat healthy foods. I tell people it’s not like you should never eat pizza again or enjoy some chocolate chip cookies. It’s just that you need to do so in moderation. I also do my homework and educate myself on a constant basis about stroke prevention.

HP: What advice would you give other people?
MM: First, know the symptoms of a stroke: face drooping, arm weakness and speech difficulty. The fact that dozens of people on my flight, including trained flight attendants as well airport personnel, did not recognize that I was having a stroke tells me we have a long way to go in educating people.

Second, remember that knowledge is power. The more you know, the less likely you are to find yourself in the same situation I found myself in. That’s the reason I’ve worked with the National Stroke Association, hosting their RAISE (Raise Awareness in Stroke Education) award, and wrote the book After the Stroke: My Journey Back to Life. It’s the reason I was proud to serve as a Power to End Stroke Ambassador for the American Stroke Association. I want to help educate people about the dangers of stroke and what they can do to prevent it.

HP: Any final thoughts?
MM: There’s a sign in my bathroom that I see every morning. It reads “Never, ever, ever give up.” As far as I know, we’re only here once. Our job is to make sure we are as healthy as we can be. 4