1000 to One: The Cory Weissman Story

What’s the difference between one and a thousand? For Cory Weissman,it’s a whole new life.

What’s the difference between one and a thousand? For Cory Weissman,it’s a whole new life.

It’s safe to say that Cory loves basketball. During his high school career, he scored more than 1,000 points for Jackson Memorial High School in Jackson Township, New Jersey. Only a handful of players have ever done that and his name was inscribed on the gym wall.

In the fall of 2008, he enrolled at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and joined the basketball team. As a freshman, he did not play much and didn’t score any points. After the season was over, he and a teammate were working out in the weight room when his left arm went numb. So did the left side of his face. An athletic trainer recognized the 19-year-old was probably having a stroke.

The trainer was right. Unbeknownst to Cory or anyone else, he had a brain AVM (arteriovenous malformation), and it burst. (For more on AVMs, see Uncommon Causes of Stroke, Spring 2014.) Doctors stopped the bleeding by pumping adhesive into the tangled, malformed blood vessels. Within two weeks he was in rehab, and even though he couldn’t walk, he was still thinking about basketball. His mother, Tina, is a physical therapist and knew that playing basketball would help his recovery, so she and his father Marc propped Cory up to shoot hoops on an outdoor patio at the rehab center.

“Before the stroke, my source of motivation was to become a better player,” Cory said. “Once I had the stroke, in my head, I was still a basketball player, so my motivation was to get back on the court. I never doubted I was going to do that.”

During the summer, he had surgery to remove the AVM that will keep him from ever fully controlling his left ankle and foot. As a result of the surgery, he also had seizures. He returned to campus in the fall, having already progressed from a wheelchair to a cane to walking very slowly, but – most importantly – on his own. He signed up to take a full load of classes, but the pace was too much, and he dropped two classes. He sat out his sophomore basketball season while he recovered, but rejoined the squad as a junior and practiced with the team.

By his senior year, Cory was putting on his No. 3 jersey and participating in pregame warm-ups, but he didn’t play and watched games from the bench. February 11, 2012 was Senior Day, the last home game of the season. His coach, Doug Petrie, named Cory the starting point guard. The opposing coach, Rob Nugent of Washington College, told his players not to make contact with Cory. Right after the tipoff, time would be called and Cory would go to the bench. Still, Cory was thrilled: “Once I got subbed out,” Cory said, “that was already the greatest day of my life.”

Actually, it got a lot better.

With Gettysburg ahead by 18 points in the final minute, Petrie asked Cory if he wanted to go back in.

“Hell, yeah,” Cory said.


Cory with his biggest fan, his mom Tina

Washington College players backed away. Cory got the ball several times and passed it along without incident. It was good to be on the court in front of his family – even his grandfather was there.

With 19 seconds left, the opposing coach called a timeout. He wanted to call a play. For Cory.

He signaled to the Gettysburg bench that Cory would be fouled so that he could shoot free throws. Petrie relayed it to his squad as if he were setting up a game-winning play.

“He got out his clipboard and had someone set a screen for me,” Cory said. “It wasn’t necessary, but he just knew it would make me feel like a basketball player again to see my name on the board and having a play drawn up for me.”

A gentle foul sent Cory to the line for two attempts. He went through his pre-shot free throw routine and shot, but the ball bounced off the rim. By then everyone in the gym was on their feet and cheering. Cory went through his routine again. Like any good shooter, he knew the result just by the feel. Swish!

When time expired, someone handed the ball to Coach Petrie, a souvenir of his 322nd victory at Gettysburg, putting him No. 1 on the school’s career list. Petrie gave the ball to Cory.

Then something amazing happened. The story spread quickly, boosted by a video shown on ESPN.

From there Hollywood got interested. While many sports moments seem made for the big screen, this one actually made the leap.

“1000 to 1: The Cory Weissman Story” features David Henrie (“How I Met Your Mother” and “Wizards of Waverly Place”) as Cory and Emmy Award-winner Beau Bridges as Coach Petrie. Most of the filming was done on the Gettysburg campus, with Cory sneaking in a cameo appearance. DVDs and digital downloads are available. An insert from the American Stroke Association explaining the warning signs of stroke and a public-service announcement about how to spot a stroke F.A.S.T. are included with the DVD.

Cory graduated from Gettysburg with a degree in health sciences. Now he lives in Los Angeles, where he is launching a career as a motivational speaker. Right now, while he’s learning his craft, he’s speaking for free to school kids.

His message to them is one he knows well. It’s about overcoming obstacles, whatever they may be.

“It all starts with taking the first step,” he said. “My first step was waking up in the hospital and saying I was going to get back on the court. If you don’t take that first step, you’ll never get anywhere.”

To other stroke survivors he has a different message: “You may have a disability, but you can use that to help other people.Your disability gives you a unique point of view. Because of that, you have the opportunity to help others.”

This information is provided as a resource to our readers. These tips, products or resources have not been reviewed or endorsed by the American Stroke Association.

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Stroke Rehabilitation

Making the Best Decisions at Discharge After Stroke

The type of rehabilitation and support systems a survivor receives at discharge can strongly influence health outcomes and recovery. In this, the first part of a two-part series on stroke rehab, we offer guidance for the decision-making process required when it’s time to leave the hospital.

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AHA-ASA Resources

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Request Free Stroke Information Packets

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When Stroke Affects the Parietal Lobe

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When Stroke Affects the Frontal Lobe

Of the four lobes that make up the cerebral cortex, the frontal lobe is the largest. It plays a huge role in many of the functions that make us human — memory, language, movement, judgment, abstract thinking.

When Stroke Affects the Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe has several functions, mainly involved with memory, perception and language.

When Stroke Affects the Brain Stem

The brain stem serves as a bridge in the nervous system. It sits at the top of the spinal column in the center of the brain. When a stroke happens there, it can cause a few different deficits and, in the most severe cases, can lead to locked-in syndrome.

When Stroke Affects the Thalamus

The thalamus can be thought of as a "relay station," receiving signals from the brain’s outer regions (cerebral cortex), interpreting them, then sending them to other areas of the brain to complete their job.
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