I woke up thinking about a person I met just two weeks ago. I was thinking about this man because he is going to die unless we find a way to help him. He is paralyzed from the neck down, has one working lung and that lung has enough blood clots in it to kill him.
Meet Rasul "Rocky" Clark, a 27-year old man living in Illinois. Rocky was once a promising young high school athlete at Eisenhower High School in Blue Island, Il. His future came to a halt when he took a bad hit on the football field that left him with the inability to ever use his arms or legs again. As you can probably imagine, the earth-shattering transition from being a healthy 16-year old boy to becoming a quadriplegic is beyond daunting, and many of us could never recover from this kind of devastation.
Everyone in the Blue Island community felt the pain of the young boy who'd suddenly lost his ability to stand up, write, run, jump or even feed himself. Being confined to a bed and only being able to move his head, Rocky received one visit after another from school administrators in Blue Island, all promising Rocky and his family that they'd do anything they could to make his life a little better. Their most comforting promise to Rocky was that the school district had premium health insurance, and that the young man would be taken care of for the rest of his life.
The sneaky little secret within the fine print of the promises being made to Rocky is that the school's insurer, Health Special Risk, Inc. only expected Rocky to live a few more years. The $5 million cap on Rocky's policy was neither communicated to his family nor was it enough to take care of him for more than just a few years.
Being a fighter and an optimist, Rocky lived longer than the doctors expected. He also outlived the cap on his insurance policy. When he hit the $5 million limit on his insurance, Health Special Risk sent the Clark family an incredibly short letter stating that his coverage had come to an end and that they would no longer pay for Rocky's medical care. In other words, Rocky had been punished for living too long, for his insurer seemed to feel that he'd missed his statistically-scheduled appointment with the Grim Reaper.
Since that time, Rocky's family has gone deep into debt trying to find ways to take care of the boy who refused to die. I spoke with a friend of the family (Darryl Luckett), who made it clear that Rocky is a brave solider who has tried to make the most out of his situation. His mother is also a fighter, giving nearly all of her time and money to take care of the little boy she loves so much. When I spoke to Rocky's mom, all she could say is, "Dr. Watkins, I'm tired." People have sent donations to the family, but they are a drop in the bucket when compared to $100,000 dollar surgical procedures and the critical needs of a man with such a significant disability.
The Blue Island School District and Eisenhower High School appear to have dropped the bal. It seems as though Rocky's disability lasted far longer than the compassion of school administrators, and this is unfortunate. Although administrators claim that they are seeking additional coverage for Rocky, the "insurer just won't do it" excuse can't fly for a district that can surely find the few hundred thousand dollars it would cost to let Rocky live. So, the message is that any child who gets seriously injured on the football field may be doomed to suffer a lonely and painful death.
In building my coalition to help Rocky Clark, I began to wonder what insurance companies like Health Special Risk and school districts like the one in Blue Island should do when one of their own finds himself knocking on death's door. Do we live in a society where large organizations should not be required to care about a man like Clark, who's now suffering in the hospital with just one lung full of blood clots? Should they be concerned that Rocky is almost certain to die without his health insurance? Perhaps it's time to rethink our commitment to capitalism as it pertains to the preservation of human life. In far too many instances, big corporations find death to be far more profitable than life.