NORTH HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Reporter Lasalle Blanks covered Waterbury for News 8 like no one else.

With total passion and enthusiasm for telling stories, he also had a special way of highlighting the city’s youth doing great things. But, one day in 2021, Blank’s life changed forever.

“I couldn’t put any pressure on my left side, so I rolled over on my right and got out of bed, and when I tried to stand I literally started going like this,” Blanks said. “When you have a stroke, you don’t just collapse.”

Then, he went to speak, and his voice was slurred.

Blanks was rushed to Yale New Haven Hospital. The stroke affected his left side.

“He had what we call a brainstem ischemic stroke, where there was decreased blood supply to part of his lower brain,” Dr. Alyse Sicklick of Gaylord Specialty Healthcare said.

At first Blanks he was too weak to eat, drink or even move in his hospital bed, but his mind was still sharp. His first goal was to get to Gaylord Specialty Hospital in Wallingford. He had done a news story there, and knew the high level of care and rehabilitation they could provide.

Blanks started videotaping his journey for his mother, and then decided to share it on his Facebook and TikTok accounts. His followers showed so much love and support for his accomplishments, like being able to walk without his cane or leg brace.

Hours and hours of intense physical therapy at Gaylord for two months allowed Blanks to work extremely hard at making the left side of his body strong again. He desperately working to make the right side of his body strong again, while remaining his upbeat self — even inspiring other Gaylord stroke patients.

“Every time you saw LaSalle again, he had a smile on his face,” Sicklick said. “He wanted to know what he could do to make himself better, and he was committed to being as good as he could be following a devastating injury.”

Through it all, Blanks manages to keeps it light.

“Laughter is everything, because many stroke patients — not stroke victims, patients — they suffer from depression,” Blanks said. “But here, they’ve been able to keep my mind focused on a prize through laughter.”

He stressed the importance of his therapy sessions.

“You put in the work you believe, buy into what your therapists are saying, and you will not believe how much the power of positive thinking works,” Blanks said.

And now, Blanks is able to drive, finally gaining his independence back.

“Let me tell you something, going to the grocery store feels so good now,” Blanks said. “Pumping gas, taking out the trash all these things that you think are just mundane and you’d never want to do I love doing because you have a new appreciation of life.”

Blanks recently received a community hero award from Kristopher Reese, the senior pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Waterbury.