Posted by Divya Sathyanarayanan

Life was ‘harmonious’ for the well-known musician, Bobby Hurricane Spencer. After finishing his usual gig at Pips on LaBrea—one of LA’s vibrant Jazz clubs—on Saturday night, Spencer and his wife Retha Petruzates Spencer were enjoying a pleasant weekend with their grandsons. Around 11:30 a.m., Bobby suffered a stroke. “I stepped out to visit the local organic farmer’s market and Bobby called me saying he suffered a stroke. He felt numbness in legs, but somehow managed to get to his phone to call me,” says Retha.

Within thirty minutes, Retha rushed Bobby to CHA HPMC’s emergency department. “We reached here at 12:20pm, and in twenty minutes he was wheeled to the CT scan room. Everything happened so fast,” recalls Retha. The CT scans showed no signs of bleeding and Bobby was admitted to our hospital to be monitored. Bobby and Retha were pleasantly impressed with our occupational therapist Debbie McNeal, who went above and beyond to help the Spencers feel at ease. She even arranged a special rollaway bed for Retha to be with Bobby during the hospital stay. “Debbie is an angel and she made things happen for us,” says Retha. However, the effects of stroke started showing and Bobby lost control of his left arm and leg. He was immediately shifted to the ICU.

Retha points out that stroke has not dampened his spirits. “One morning, I woke up to see Bobby giving music lessons to a nurse in ICU at 5 a.m. Apart from being a musician, Bobby was also a teacher for more than two decades. So both are his passion” says Retha. Most recently, Bobby taught Ancient History at John Adams Middle School in Los Angeles.

Bobby started his musical career in Oakland, cutting his teeth in the Chitlin’ Circuit of the Bay Area. Chitlin’ Circuit is a collection of performance venues across the US that provide a platform for African-American musicians. He has been honored as a Living Legend by the JazZabration Living Legend Foundation, the Los Angeles City Council with LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, and the California State Senate.

To regain his movement and to play music again, Bobby is currently undergoing therapy in our acute rehab where the team is working on helping him get control of his left arm and leg. As Retha explains Bobby’s recovery at CHA HPMC, Bobby is fast asleep and recouping from his 4-hour therapy sessions.

When you pass by Bobby’s room, it isn’t uncommon to hear him sing one of his own creations or even playing on his keyboard. Some days when Bobby is tired and weak, his therapy team brings him back to his cheerful self. “Troy, his therapist, takes him for his 4-hour therapy and states that the difference in Bobby is notable. He leaves as a tired old person but comes back as a tiger,” says Retha, with a smile.

During their stay, Spencers have been posting regular updates on their Facebook page to inform friends, family, and fans about Bobby’s recovery. “We have had previous experience in top hospitals in LA, but it is nothing compared to our experience here. The doctors here tell you the facts and don’t intimidate you to take any treatments or procedures. Nurses have become like a family for us,” explains Retha.

As we wrap up our conversation, Bobby wakes up and quickly chimes in, “You have some great people (nurses and doctors) here and I don’t know how you got so many of them together.”

Support from CHA HPMC’s care team and Bobby’s beloved wife Retha, and positive thoughts from Bobby’s friends and fans is helping him on the road to recovery.
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