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  • Tyler Slattery, Director

The Film Poster of Young Survivor, Dionna Zupparo, ringed by a halo of light with the film name over the top

About the Project

Young Survivor is a powerful and inspiring documentary about the stroke and recovery of Dionna Zupparo, a Rochester, New York native who suffered a life-altering stroke at the age of 14. Before her stroke, Dionna was an academic success, a talented musician, and a freshman athlete swimming on the varsity swim team. She was sure to go places, but no one could have predicted that those places would be full of hospitals and broken dreams.

In 2011, Dionna was at high school swimming sectionals when she lost consciousness getting out of the pool. She was rushed to the closest hospital where she underwent life-saving surgery to save her life. Dionna died three times as the result of a stroke that would claim her voice, half her vision, and the function of the right side of her body. Her life would never be the same.

The documentary follows Dionna's incredible journey of recovery and resilience, as she and her family navigate the challenges of her disabilities and try to reclaim her life. In addition to hearing from Dionna directly, her road to recovery is told through the perspectives of her parents, Roxanne and Ignatious Zupparo, former swim coach Liz Zaffino, note taker Victoria Foster, her boyfriend Tyler Slattery, and Doctor Edward Taub of the University of Alabama.

Over the course of 11 years and countless visits to both the University of Alabama and Marquette University, Dionna undergoes intensive speech and occupational therapy to regain her independence and reclaim her life. Doctor Taub sheds light on how the program works and recounts how Dionna was one of their first long-term studies. Despite her struggles with aphasia and limited ability to read and write, Dionna completes her bachelor's degree in Public Health.