I first interviewed the 41st President at his Bonefish Tournament, an event that raised thousands of dollars for various charities. This was in 2000, long before stroke was an important part of my life.
We talked four times over the years, one being shortly after the 9/11 attacks. We were back at the tournament, but current events couldn’t be ignored. He had been president during Desert Storm and now his son was at the helm.
With national cameras rolling, I asked, “When you see the same names in the news, the same towns, the same countries, do you have any regrets?”
I’d never seen a president get red in the face or angry. I saw both.
I always tell people to forget that the camera is there. We both did and had what is known as a “spirited conversation.” Afterwards, he shook my hand, hard.
I regretted my question the entire trip home. That evening, I received a fax from President Bush requesting a copy of our interview for his presidential library. Apparently, people he listened to had seen the interview and liked it, which helped change his mind. I happily sent it to him with a lightened heart.
Years later, he gave me an unexpected gift: the gift of support.
I had left the network and gone to Orlando to anchor for WKMG when I had my stroke. After months of rehabilitation, my friend Harry Smith, anchor for “The Early Show,” came to interview me. After the show aired, my cell phone rang. It was President George H. W. Bush.
He had seen the interview and told me how well he thought I was coming along. It meant so much to me, especially then. It made me want to run, not walk, to rehab.
When you have a stroke, your support network plays a starring role in your recovery. Everyone’s network looks a little different. For the lucky few, a former president might even make the list.
I later learned 41 was responsible for proclaiming the first National Stroke Awareness Month, now commonly known as American Stroke Month, and it warmed my heart.
There was a time that stroke was in the shadows. We’ve brought it into the light over the decades. We must continue this important work. I challenge you to become a stroke hero. Know the warning signs, be prepared to spot a stroke F.A.S.T. and call 9-1-1 at the very first sign. For more information, visit StrokeAssociation.org.
Mark McEwen worked for many years in a variety of high profile journalism positions, including anchoring “CBS This Morning” and serving as weather and entertainment reporter for “The Early Show.” He was a correspondent for “48 Hours” and continues to work in television today. He tweets at @McEwenMark and blogs at iammarkmcewen.blogspot.com.