Five months after suffering a major stroke and after being given only a 20 percent chance of survival, an SAU professor is back on the road to recovery – with a little help from the men’s volleyball team and SAU community.
Albert Chan, assistant professor of philosophy at SAU, suffered a stroke while teaching class on Oct. 29, 2012.
Last week, the men’s volleyball team, Lindsay Schaefer, and the Chan family held a benefit for Albert, named “Fight Like Albert,” raising $3,000.
“It’s been incredible to have a strong sense of a wonderful community like St. Ambrose behind us,” Cora Chan, Albert’s wife, said. “The fundraiser was hugely successful not only in what was raised but how it helped raise our morale.”
The fundraiser, set to help with medical expenses and other items, featured giveaways at the men’s volleyball game and also a blue T-shirt with a picture of Albert on it saying, “Fight Like Albert.” The fundraiser was a success according to Schaefer, who gave a lot of credit to the volleyball team.
“The men’s varsity team just completely took over, and they did a great job of that. They sold T-shirts and raffle tickets,” Schaefer explained. Schaefer teaches English at SAU and works as the graduate writing coordinator.
Albert’s love of volleyball goes back to his days in college when he played in recreation leagues, which is also how he became friends with Schaefer.
“We played on the same faculty volleyball team, so we played intramurals here and also played in bar leagues over the summer,” Schaefer said. “He’s amazing and could jump feet over the net and just smash it.”
Albert passed his love of volleyball on to his daughters, one of whom plays for the Iowa Rockets, a traveling club volleyball team. Upon hearing that Albert was playing volleyball at SAU, a few of his students and members of the volleyball team, encouraged him to come scrimmage with them.
“He talked about winning against the students in last year’s volleyball staff vs. students tournament, and he was so proud of that since he knew what a good team the students were,” Cora continued. “He had hoped to practice with the JV team. Even now, he practices doing some volleyball moves as part of his physical therapy and hopes for a comeback.”
Albert is rehabilitating in Ankeny, Iowa, and hopes to return to SAU in some sort of capacity before the end of the school year. Albert is currently working to get everything back into top shape, but he has already taken big steps in only five months.
“He was given a 70 to 80 percent chance of mortality due to the growing bleed in his brain,” Cora said. “He has progressed to awaking from a coma, to being able to speak and walk with assistance, all in five months. He was even able to speak with a politician in Des Moines to advocate for disability benefits.”
Although there is no timetable so to speak for his recovery, Albert hopes to make a return by the end of the school year to put on a guest lecture in order to get back in the swing of things. Cora appreciates the efforts from St. Ambrose students, staff, faculty and the community as a whole.
“Having people cheering you on along the way keeps us strong and moving forward,” Cora said. “We wish there was a timetable for the future in terms of recovery, however even the doctors or therapists cannot predict when or how much he will recover. We’ve learned brain injury is unique for each person primarily since the brain is so complex and the effects of the injury depend on the location and severity of brain damage to the brain. He experiences different milestones – learning to speak again, walk up stairs and we rejoice with each one.”
For now, Albert will continue rehabilitation in Ankeny in hopes that one day soon he can bump, set and spike again on the court.