Editor's Note: Margaret Poindexter is a former Bay Area television news producer and assignment editor who spent the majority of her 20-plus years in the business at KGO-TV ABC7 in San Francisco. She began her tenure there as a production assistant, eventually becoming a news producer for the station's weekend evening newscasts and the weeknight 11 p.m. newscast. After years as a producer, she became an assignment editor for the station. A severe stroke, at the age of 42, cut her successful career short. Last month, Poindexter marked the 15th anniversary since her stroke by sharing the following post on Facebook -- a letter she wrote by request from April, a producer at the time for Oprah Winfrey. Off Camera invited Poindexter to share her story in this month's issue. Below is the version she wrote for Off Camera. Today, Poindexter is the director of outreach and engagement for Specialty Studios - The Video Project.
By Margaret Poindexter
Special to Off Camera
You asked me if I'd be willing to share my Silver Lining story. You bet I am. If I can help
others find their Spirit, their sense of peace & purpose in this world,
without having to suffer a traumatic health crisis to "awaken" themselves,
then I will have indeed served my purpose as the survivor of a severe
stroke at age 42.
Let me take a moment to re-introduce myself. My name is Margaret
Poindexter. Last year, on March 13th, 2001, I suffered a major
stroke. There is no history of strokes in my family, and I had none of the
high risk factors; so it came as quite a shock to me and my family. But I
have to say that today, even with the lingering paralysis in my left arm &
hand, and the likelihood that I may never again ride a bike with my two young
sons (ages 3 and 6) I have never known such happiness, joy, love & peace. I almost lost my
life; instead I found my spirit.
Meeting an Archbishop
Margaret Poindexter, meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in 2006 in Bali, at The Quest for Global Healing Conference. Poindexter says the invitation to attend the conference and meet Tutu is an example of "the magic and synchronous moments" she refers to in her story and reflections for Off Camera.
I started my career in journalism at KGO-TV some 23 years ago, as
a college intern while attending USF. The internship resulted in a full
time Newsroom position as a Production Assistant. I moved up the
ranks over 19 years from Desk Assistant to Producer of weekend & weekday
shows. Eventually I found my true niche as an Assignment Editor.
The responsibilities of an Assignment Editor are multi-dimensional. But
I wouldn't be exaggerating to say that an Assignment Editor's task is to
run the "nerve center" of a newsroom. Assignment editors are responsible for listening to
half a dozen police scanners with dozens of different channels on each
one -- meeting with Executives, Producers, Reporters and Writers, offering
ideas for coverage on any given day, setting up interviews, dispatching
crews, reporters and producers, while answering phones, reading the
wires, confirming breaking news as it is happening, and setting up live
feeds and live phone interviews. Truly whatever the story or event requires,
to offer the viewers the best, most accurate & up to date information
I loved my job as Assignment Editor. I've been told over & over again that
I was one of the best in the business. Not just by colleagues, but by
other professionals I dealt with on a day to day basis. An honor, for
But, as I began to look back on my job after my stroke, I realized how much of
my time and energy was spent chasing the negative, and in many cases, the
horrors and human tragedies in life. Jeez, just sitting in a small enclosed
room for eight hours, listening to police scanners; can you imagine? And,
please forgive me for being so blunt; but it wasn't beyond me to become excited
about getting an "Exclusive" with someone who had just experienced the
most horrific tragedy one can imagine.
To some, my stroke would seem to be one such horrific tragedy. And it
easily could have been; my doctors told me that 90 percent of patients who have the
type of brain bleed I had (no matter the age, sex, health) die from the
initial bleed. Of the 10 percent who do survive, most of them are so trashed from
brain damage that they are in a nursing home for the rest of their lives,
unable to speak or eat without assistance.
Yet for me, the experience of the stroke, and all that has resulted from
it, has been the opposite of a tragedy. It was an epiphany, a spiritual
crossroads and pivotal turning point of my life. It began just five
minutes before the pain started in my head (my stroke was preceded by an
aneurysm) when I experienced a moment of pure ecstasy.
It was a warm (by San Francisco standards) San Francisco night. I was walking back to
my job as Nightside Assignment Editor at KGO-TV after picking up
dinner in North Beach. I was walking down one of those steep hills that San
Francisco is so famous for, looking out at the Bay Bridge, the water and the
city lights, thinking I am the luckiest person alive! I love my husband.
I love my kids. I love my boss. I love my job. I love living and working in
the Bay Area. I LOVE everything about my life. It was truly the first time
that I had ever felt so at peace, so connected to the Universe. I frankly
felt that if I put my arms out to my side I could have flown. (I would have
tried too if I hadn't been loaded down with take-out!)
Five minutes later, as I was walking through the doors of Channel 7, the
excruciating pain began in my head. Within several hours, I was
hospitalized in ICU. The following morning, during an angiogram to
discover the source of the bleed, I suffered the stroke. Initially my
ENTIRE left side was paralyzed. Thankfully, over time, I have regained
total use of my left leg and speech. But, I still get very easily fatigued
by too much stimulus and stress; my left arm and hand remain
I began to question very early on after my stroke why I survived it. My
neurosurgeon admitted to me that he truly believed I was not going to
survive the surgery he performed, to place an aneurysm clip in my brain. He
and other doctors have also shared that they were concerned I may never walk
again; and it was possible I might live the rest of my days in a nursing
But survive I did. And with my new found awareness, an awakened and open
heart, I realized how much beauty there is in the world; pure beauty,
Light, Spirit. A vast well of courage, love, inspiration, community,
the Arts and Healing, that mainstream media ignores. It's almost as if
the evening news has joined the ranks of many afternoon TV talk shows --
showing the "grit" of the human experience -- not the joy nor connection
we all share to each other and everything in the universe.
April, I've never felt happier in my life. I can honestly say I am a
million-trillion times happier today than I was even on the night of my
aneurysm, when I experienced that moment of bliss shortly before the pain
How can that be, when I face a life of permanent disabilities? Unable to
raise my kids like "normal" moms? Stress and fatigue could cause me to
have seizures; though I've had none to date. And multi-tasking is very
difficult and very exhausting for me.
The answer is quite simple. I have found my Spirit, and most importantly,
my true Purpose, which is to help others open their hearts, find their
Spirit, and feel their deep, profound, healing, loving connection to all
things, without having to suffer a great tragedy to get there. My life is
filled with magic, synchronous moments these days, along with the sense of
Peace & Love that results when we truly realize we are not alone and
isolated. My work now is in connecting people whose "voices" have helped
me in some way, people who otherwise might not get wide community
exposure, to the mainstream media.
Now, instead of viewing police
scanners, instead of chasing the horrors and human tragedies of life, I am
attracting and facilitating synchronous meetings with people who are
authentically creating healing and joy in their lives, sharing the very
essence of themselves with the community, and indelibly changing the
direction of people's lives.
Friends who have known me a long time are amazed when they see me today.
One friend recently wrote me an email:
"It is very odd, but you are a different person, and it's hard to say that
sounding like "Who are you now?" and neither apply here because I love
you and always have. It seems that you are on an accelerated journey of
some sort, one almost beyond your control, but one that is driving you and
clearly necessary for you to heal & grow. I am benefiting from your experience too.
It's amazing, as your friend, to see you undergo this transformation; you
are looking brighter, younger, freer."
My husband kids me now. I was such a HUGE skeptic before my stroke that the
only thing 'Spirit' meant to me was something that came in a bottle. But
now I know better. Literally first hand (in part through my experiences
of adjusting to my paralyzed left hand). There truly is a profound healing
relationship between Body, Mind & Spirit. It's very real. And it is
available to ALL of us.
A Silver lining? FOR SURE!
My life has become a lustrous shade of gray (silver) where black & white
thinking has dissolved, and along with it, the fears & expectations (and
disappointments) that come from such thinking.