Eight days after being shot in the brain and given little chance of survival, teacher Alfredo Perez has made remarkable progress and may be transferred to a rehabilitation facility as early as next week, doctors at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center said Friday.
"He wrote his name last night. He is even occasionally smiling," said Dr. George E. Locke, head of neurosurgery at the hospital.
"He is doing excellent," said Dr. Taghi Tirgari, the neurosurgeon who performed a three-hour operation on Perez on Feb. 22 after the Figueroa Street Elementary School teacher was struck by a stray bullet in front of his fifth-grade students.
Although he is not able to speak, Perez is communicating through writing and movements. "In the last 48 hours he has made dramatic, remarkable progress," Locke said.
Locke and Tirgari said that despite initial pessimism about Perez's chances for life, they are now optimistic. "He will survive," Tirgari said.
However, without making specific predictions, they said the teacher will never fully recover. "He lost some brain tissue and that is lost forever," Locke said. "With the aid of an appliance, such as a cane, he will probably be able to walk again."
Meanwhile, at Figueroa Street School, officials said 36 bulletproof windows will be in place by March 9.
"We hope to end up with one of the safest schools in the city," Principal Rosemary Lucente said during a news conference.
Students have been moved from the classrooms facing the street and crisis intervention workers remain to provide counseling. Attendance at the school has returned to near normal; only six students have not come back since the shooting.