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Rocky Clark loses insurance benefits

Friday, November 05, 2010

Ten years after he was paralyzed during a high school football game, a south suburban man and his family say the medical insurance he received through the school district has run out.

Rocky Clark became a quadriplegic in 2001.

Clark was playing for Eisenhower High School in Blue Island when he was injured. He has undergone years of rehabilitation and his medical bills are mounting. Now comes news that his insurance benefits have run out.

Since a major portion of Rocky Clark's health insurance expired in August, his family has accumulated some $70,000 in medical expenses. His mother is the sole caregiver of the former high school football star. She says they simply can't afford to pay. That's why there has been an appeal for help.

"I just leave it in God's hands. I've always been that way," Clark said.

Rocky Clark is talking about how he plans to overcome the latest obstacle in his life -- the loss of a major part of his health insurance.

"I just sat down. I went on the porch and started crying," said Rocky's mother Annette Clark. "I was devastated."

Almost three months ago, Annette Clark says she was informed the benefits from the catastrophic health insurance that covered her son's medical care were maxed out, meaning she would have to rely solely on her Social Security and Rocky's Illinois State Health Insurance for his supplemental care, healthcare products and many medications.

Clark will have to pay $1,000 out of pocket for the two drugs that the now 26-year-old takes four times a day to keep his lungs clear.

"I cry every time I look at him, every time I bathe him. This is not real. This is not real," said Annette Clark.

School officials heard about the problem and are trying to help -- although the district no longer uses Rocky's insurance provider.

Superintendent John Byrne says, even though the benefits of the catastrophic health insurance it is required to purchase for all students in the district caps out at $5 million and cannot be extended, there must be a solution.

"They are investigating to see how we can help the Clark family," said Byrne, llinois Community District #218 superintendent.

Rocky Clark was 16 years old and a star running back on the Eisenhower High School football team when he was paralyzed from the neck down during a game. Since then, he has become a voice for other quadriplegics, been an honorary football coach and attended college.

"We just can't let Rocky die," said Pastor Anthony Williams, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Robbins. "As citizens, we must stand up. Governor Quinn was just re-elected. We appeal to Governor Quinn."

Until then, surrounded by memories of his past, Rocky Clark shows once again that his dreams may have changed, but his strength and faith have not.

"Things happen. Life is not always what we expect it to be," said Rocky. "But it's what we have to deal with."

The family says funds from a number of fundraisers for Rocky were used to pay for his care.

Rocky, who shares the same birthday as Muhammad Ali and first lady Michelle Obama, says illness -- namely pneumonia -- have kept him from completing his college degree. That's something he hopes to finish soon.

UPDATE: Governor Quinn has instructed his department of insurance to work with the family to come up with the best possible option to help them in this situation, including seeing what state programs Rocky may be eligible for.

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