By Joseph Recinos
History professor Robert John Arias is recovering successfully following emergency brain surgery to remove a blood clot after experiencing a stroke while teaching a class Sept. 27.
The 16-year veteran of East Los Angeles College was conducting a lecture about enlightenment when he suddenly lost his balance and bumped up against the white board. He said he was feeling “very weird” and one of his students, a nursing major, called for help.
He has been in the hospital for more than a month and is slowly recovering. He is making good progress with his physical and speech therapy. While Arias has been working hard to get better, all he can think about is his students and faculty at ELAC. “I miss the students the most. I’ve found my niche in life, teaching and working with young people,” said Arias.
He says that being away from teaching is what makes being in the hospital so hard. “Being here just keeps me so separated from what I love,” said Arias.
Arias’ physical therapy consists of exercises to bring back full mobility to the left side of his body that he lost during the stroke. He is also having some trouble seeing with his left eye. He is also undergoing speech therapy because of partial loss of mobility of the left side of his face. According to Tiffany Poole, speech-language pathologist at Garfield Medical Center, where he has spent the last month, Arias is coming along very well.
“He had issues of neglect of the left side which is common with a right-side stroke. He is improving a lot,” said Poole. He showed signs of short-term memory loss early on in his hospitalization, but he has regained his memory and is now working mostly on his mobility and speech.
Arias keeps his hopes up in spite of the situation. He is eager to get well so that he can come back to what he loves. He said that once he gets better he will return to campus. “I want to be safe and I want to be walking well,” said Arias.
“My place is at ELAC. I got my first opportunity there,” said Arias. He said that although he was stressed, it wasn’t the students who made him stressed it was some paperwork he had to finish. “It wasn’t because of the students, that relieves stress,” said Arias.
The work ethic and love for his students is astounding. While many other teachers would take a situation like this as a sign that a long relaxing vacation is needed, all Arias can think about is coming back to work. A small portion of his wall is covered with cards and “get well wishes” from students and teachers that keep him positive about his return to campus.
It seems that in the midst of all the chaos of having a stroke, he comforts himself by thinking of his students. Arias has one message for both students and staff, “I can hardly wait to be back.”