Episode 038 — Meet Maggie Whittum

'It started off with a headache, a very bad headache, but I just thought I was dehydrated, and I drank some water, took some Ibuprofen, and felt kind of crappy the whole day.' --@MargaretWhittum #TheGreatNowWhat #stroke Click To Tweet

I first met Maggie Whittum a couple months ago, thanks to the episode I did with the folks at The Slow Road to Better. We connected to record this episode and I enjoyed the chat.

Maggie has a nice deliberate way of speaking. You can hear the emotion in her voice as she talks.

Like Whitney last week, Maggie’s story is a frightening reminder that even if you do everything right, stroke can happen to anyone at any age. That doesn’t mean you should ignore risk factors. Just keep in mind that a healthy lifestyle only reduces risk of stroke. It doesn’t eliminate it entirely. On the other hand, a healthy pre-stroke life helps make rehab easier.

'I'm 33 years old. I'm in the best shape of my life at this point in time because I've been doing Pilates 3 times a week. I don't smoke. I don't drink in excess. It's like what the heck is going on with me?'-- --@MargaretWhittum… Click To Tweet

Maggie Whittum headshotMaggie was 33 years old when a cavernous angioma  failed and she had a hemorrhagic stroke in her brain stem.

At the time, stroke was the furthest thing from her mind. She was a healthy, athletic, driven, non-smoking actor in the best physical condition of her life. After spending several years acting, producing, and directing projects around the world she moved to the Washington, DC, area to pursue a Master of Fine Arts program at George Washington University. That all changed when her stroke hit her at the end of her first semester.

Now, Maggie lives in Denver where she continues to work on her recovery, creates art projects to illustrate just what chronic pain is like, and acts on stage with the Phamaly Theater, a company focused on providing opportunities for actors with disabilities.

'95% of disabled characters are played by able bodied actors.' -- --@MargaretWhittum #TheGreatNowWhat #stroke Click To Tweet

Now, Maggie is taking everything she’s learned from her time as an actor, director, producer, writer, teacher, and stroke survivor to assemble a team and create The Great Now What, a documentary exploring stroke, recovery, the healing power of art, and her journey to claim a powerful new identity.

'It's kind of like my whole life is on a shaky camcorder.' -- --@MargaretWhittum #TheGreatNowWhat #stroke Click To Tweet

Hack of the Week

The great thing about carrying a purse, messenger bag, backpack or other carrying device is that it’s easier to carry stuff. You can just throw all your stuff in there and go.

With a little thought, however, the process can be much more efficient. Arrange items in the bag specifically for single-handed use instead of just tossing stuff in. Consider flaps that allow easy access to a bus pass, a carabiner for keys, or a designated pocket for a disabled parking placard. A little planning can make the day a little less stressful.


The Great Now What

Crowd Funding

The Great Now What on Facebook

Maggie Whittum on Instagram

Maggie Whittum on Twitter

Maggie Whittum on IMDB

Maggie Whittum RAISE Award Nomination

Fates and Furies on Amazon

The Crash Reel with Kevin Pearce

The Crash Reel on Amazon Video

Phamaly Theater Company

Cavernous Angioma

Slow Road to Better on Strokecast

'I have this body that plagues me now.' --@MargaretWhittum #TheGreatNowWhat #stroke Click To Tweet

Where do we go from here?

  • Be sure to check out the film at You can also find the crowdfunding campaign there if you would like to support the film.
  • To find that page and all the links in today’s episode, visit
  • Share this episode with a friend, colleague, relative, theater person, or independent film buff. Just tell them to visit
  • Organize your purse or bag for one-handed access
  • Don’t get best…get better
'Having a disability has opened up a side of my acting that I didn't know was there and that I may have never had access to under different circumstances.' --@MargaretWhittum #TheGreatNowWhat #stroke Click To Tweet

2 thoughts on “Episode 038 — Meet Maggie Whittum

  1. Maggie I’m an almost 10 year Stroke survivor who had an ischemic stroke from Pfo. I am so impressed by your story and your perseverance! I was the 10percent that made a full recovery from left side paralysis. I’ve used my story and my voice to help other survivors& care givers. My contribution is being a Stroke Support facitator. I love your idea about turning this into an art form.. keep fighting my fellow survivor, know you are valued and an inspiration.

  2. I found out about “The Great Now What” via an email and I love the project! Maggie’s stroke survival story is amazing! I have Cerebral Palsy which is like a stroke, and what she describes with symptoms getting worse due to cold or emotions is very common in Cerebral Palsy too, except in my case of Cerebral Palsy I get spasticity, not pain. I completely agree with Maggie about disability representation and disabled actors and I made a film about a professor with a stroke for similar reasons. My film is called “A Stroke Of Endurance” and is available for free with open captions and audio descriptions here

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