On sophomore Nathan Chen’s first day back to school in months, the sophomore class and sophomores Scott Becker, Andrew Butler, Sid Muralidhar, Anthony Thomas, and Joshua Havermale surprised Nathan Chen with a welcome back celebration and performance in the Einstein Commons during lunch. On April 27, lifting up their shirts to reveal letters spelling “Welcome Back” across their chests, Becker, Butler, Muralidhar, Thomas, and Havermale, danced to “My Boo” by Ghost Town DJ’s, then followed up the performance by lifting Chen onto their shoulders and paraded him across the commons. Crowds of enthusiastic sophomores arrived to witness Nathan’s arrival and to cheer on the boys during their surprise flash mob.
“The best part was when everyone came together and yelled welcome back, so he knew that everyone was there for him and was happy to have him back,” sophomore Shreya Chappidi said.
After four months of extensive treatment and recovery, Chen says he is excited to back at school with his friends and the community at TJ, the one aspect of TJ life that Chen missed the most.
“It felt surreal,” Chen said. It just felt absolutely crazy and everything was going 100 miles an hour. I’m just so grateful, it just shows that the community here is just so supportive. I had severe aplastic anemia, which is a disease where I lose all the blood cells in my body, and so I really couldn’t be in school because there’s a high risk of infection. I just missed seeing everyone’s face really; if I’m talking to someone face to face, I can sort of interact with them a little better, and that’s what I was really missing when I was sick.”
For Chen, adjusting to the life of an aplastic anemia patient while keeping up with school work was a difficult experience during the past four months. Originally loaded up with AP Biology and AP Chinese in his schedule, Chen had to drop AP Biology, keep in constant communication with his teachers, and even control a virtual presence device which allowed him to attend a few of his classes to stay on top of his course load as a Jefferson student.
“Schoolwork was hard,” Chen said. “It’s not easy being in TJ everyday anyways, and having to make up a month’s worth of work was terrible and awful. [I was] communicating with the teachers, letting them know that, ‘hey, I have this very debilitating disease, I need a lot of rest so I can’t be overloaded with schoolwork.’ Teachers were very understanding: they let me make some assignments optional, and because of that, I’m still able to continue at this school.”
And even during the trying experience of the last couple months, Chen felt the presence his friends and the community throughout every step of the way. Many reached out to give support and texted him to see how he was doing, and some even found his optimism for recovery to be inspiring.
“I just really admired how he stayed positive, even though this was a difficult condition to deal with,” Chappidi said. “He just worked so hard even though he couldn’t be here for a couple months. He didn’t dwell on the negative, instead he looked forward and found a way to make his situation work.”