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Fundraiser for Loyalist professor’s accessible van halfway to its goal

Loyalist media studies professor Glen Arendt has been working on gaining mobility on his left side after his brain aneurysm and stroke last year. Just last week, he returned home from rehab at Providence Care in Kingston, where he practised skills that will give him more independence in daily routines. Photo courtesy of Carol Arendt

By Shira Rubinoff [1]

BELLEVILLE – Glen Arendt had a life-changing brain aneurysm and stroke just over a year ago. Today, as the Loyalist College animation professor’s recovery continues, the next step is being able to get outside and explore, like he and his wife, Carol, used to do with their three children.

Carol Arendt’s sister, Barbara Elliott, started a GoFundMe page [2] in February 2021 collecting donations for a wheelchair-accessible van. These vehicles can range in price from $40,000 to $100,000, and the fundraiser is currently just over halfway to its goal of $55,000. 

The couple are currently in the process of getting their van. “We’re just going on faith that all the funds will continue to come in,” Carol said.

Having the van will be a huge benefit for Glen, according to his wife.

“Glen loves to go driving. He would just say, ‘Let’s go for a drive’ and hop in the car and go for a drive. It will open up a huge amount of world to us because we can just then go get in the car and go and get ice cream or something,” Carol said in an interview from their Belleville-area home on Tuesday.

Glen and Carol Arendt at Bon Echo Park in 2018. On the GoFundMe page she created, Carol’s sister, Barbara Elliott, notes that road trips have always been important to Glen.  Photo courtesy of Carol Arendt

Through his wife, Glen told QNet that one of the things he wants to do when they get a van is go to Vanderwater Conservation Area east of Thomasburg and go for a hike.

The van would also save them time, money and the hassle of booking an accessible taxi every time they need to go somewhere. With an accessible van sitting in the family’s driveway, they’ll have freedom from walking the same paths and being stuck in the same house every day.

On April 17, 2020, Glen suffered an aneurysm and a stroke. He was airlifted from Belleville General Hospital to Kingston General Hospital where he went through surgery and was in a coma for six and a half weeks. He was transferred back to Belleville for a short period, and then to the Trenton Memorial Hospital to get slow-stream (slower-paced) rehabilitation, but he didn’t make much progress, according to Carol.

Glen only saw improvement when his wife visited to help with his physiotherapy, and when she taught him how to do certain tasks, she said.

He returned home in December after three months of renovations were done to make the family’s house wheelchair-accessible. Recently he was back in Kingston for a six-and-a-half-week rehabilitation program, but he’s now home again. 

Carol has been working hard to help Glen with his recovery. She has been taking charge of roles around the house that she was not used to before, and she visited him almost every day when he was in the Trenton hospital.

The journey has been a challenge: “I couldn’t have done it without my family, and my church family and friends supporting me,” Carol said. “If I didn’t have so strong a faith, I couldn’t have coped with it. Some days are much harder than others. It’s very tiring.”

Glen was at home the day he had the aneurysm.

He had a blinding headache and he had a small seizure,” Carol said. “He was at home marking papers and I took him in to Belleville (General Hospital), and in the triage department he had a massive seizure when the aneurysm burst and they airlifted him from Belleville to Kingston (General Hospital) by air ambulance. And he had surgery that night, and I was told when he went in for surgery that there was a very, very good chance that he wouldn’t survive the surgery. And then once he did get through the surgery there was a very high chance that he wouldn’t survive the first three days, and then it moved to three weeks because he had something called vasospasms [3], which is kind of like the pressure in the brain that is sort of trying to have a stroke again. So that had to be managed, and that lasted for three weeks. So that was very difficult, because we just didn’t know what was going to happen and we didn’t know, if he did wake up, if he would be able to function cognitively. But thankfully, he is.”

At the beginning of his recovery, Glen was not very aware of what was going on around him, Carol said. Now, he is no longer as confused. He can communicate with his family and make jokes, and with his left hand he can brush his teeth, feed himself, use zippers and buttons and shave, and he is beginning to do some writing and drawing. 

Before the brain injury, Glen was the co-ordinator and a professor in the Animation and Game Development program at Loyalist. Carol said he misses the students – “not all of them, but the ones that really wanted to learn and were trying their hardest(,) he misses helping them.”

The website ratemyprofessors.com [4] holds nothing but positive reviews for Glen, with students complimenting everything from his teaching style to his general positive attitude and great sense of humour.

One review from 2017 said: “Glen is great. He is hilarious and always has interesting stories to tell. No matter what state your work is in he’ll always find something to adjust or change to make it better. Manages to make the most boring topics entertaining.”

Another review, from 2006, said: “Glen is the man!! You don’t get much better than Glen.”

According to Carol, those traits have not gone away. “He can communicate with us, and he loves a good joke. He’s got a really good sense of humour and he always has, so he likes to joke with us and with the people who are coming into the house to help him.”

Glen’s recovery has gone better than expected, but there is still no answer about what comes next, his wife said.

“It’s a challenge and there isn’t any end, like some things that you get into in life where you know that it’s going to end at a certain point – this isn’t like that. We don’t really know how far he’ll come or how long it will take for him to get to that point. So that just can be daunting at times.”