After Seven Months Away, Mr. Roth Is Settling Back Into Life at La Salle


Jasmine McIntosh

“The La Salle community was awesome,” science teacher Mr. Eric Roth said. “I really appreciated their efforts to be positive and sweet, I felt a lot of love.”

Kathleen Waldron, Staff Reporter

A part of the La Salle community returned to a sense of normalcy at the beginning of the school year as science teacher Mr. Eric Roth came back to campus after being in a biking accident last February. Mr. Roth had to temporarily stop teaching in order to recover both physically and mentally. 

In addition to teaching, he now spends a lot of time doing physical therapy and going to the gym to get his body back in shape. He also rides his bike every day, walks his dog, Badger, every night for an hour, plays the guitar, and spends time with friends. He fills his days with the things he enjoys most, but with little room for rest.

“I’m a busy guy,” he said.

As to be expected from being away from La Salle for so long, the nerves flooded in as this school year approached. “My teaching muscles hadn’t been used for seven months,” he said. While he knew that it would take time to build back his strength and teach, “I feel like I’m getting it slowly,” he said.

On the day of his accident, he was out riding with his club team, Solid Cycles. It was the perfect February day: sunny and cold, he said. Riding in from Oak Grove to Southern Milwaukee, the ride was coming to an end when Mr. Roth was hit. “I just wasn’t expecting this guy who was in a Chevy Suburban to turn right into me,” Mr. Roth said. 

The outcome of his injury was alarming, abrupt, and terrifying, Mr. Roth said. “Especially when you can’t move, and you have to just kind of suck up pain because I couldn’t move my body,” he said. “I was really worried I was going to be paralyzed.”

His injuries from the accident were extensive, breaking his nose and back, as well as his neck in four places. He also tore his rotator cuff and suffered numerous lacerations. As soon as the paramedics arrived on the scene, he was rushed to Oregon Health & Science University for emergency surgery, where he underwent spinal fusion. “They basically put a plate and fused my spine together,” Mr. Roth said. 

Mr. Roth described the operation as “some of the longest seconds or minutes in my life,” he said. “I experienced a threshold of pain I never experienced before.” 

After undergoing the emergency surgery, Mr. Roth was admitted to the ICU for five days and the trauma unit for three days. Experiencing the ICU was challenging for him because of witnessing how critical the other patients were. “I was the healthiest person there,” he said.

Initially, Mr. Roth was scheduled to return to school at the end of last year’s spring break, but after realizing that he was not socially, emotionally, or physically ready to come back, he decided to take his time recovering. “My doctors told me, ‘You’re going to recover faster if you take time to recover,’” he said. So that’s what he did. 

Knowing that he is not fully physically recovered yet, Mr. Roth said that a key factor in his recovery has been obtaining a positive mindset and attitude throughout the process.

“I realized that I’m a lot tougher than I thought I was,” Mr. Roth said. “I thought I was kind of wimpy.” 

He was also greatly impacted by the love and support he received from his community. “I had friends coming over to my house every single day, [so] I had two months of meals made,” Mr. Roth said. Alongside his friends, he appreciated the support and kindness that came from the La Salle community.

“I felt a lot of love,” he said. “And that’s a really powerful thing.”

As far as being motivated goes, most of it was generated by himself. “It’s internal for me,” he said. “I feel like I don’t sit idle. I don’t need pushing.”

“I realize how lucky I am, and I realized how special moments can be,” he said. 

This trauma has not only changed his everyday life but also his outlook on life. He was reminded of how even the littlest things can be special and impactful. 

“Life can change really, really quickly,” Mr. Roth said. “And I knew that a little bit already, but I got reminded again.”