I just went to the hospital to visit Rasul “Rocky” Clark, a young man who was once a very talented high school football player. In the year 2000, Rocky took a bad hit, like many of us did while playing the sport. But this hit severed his spinal cord so badly that he was paralyzed for life from the neck down. He wasn’t able to walk, lift his arms, or even breathe properly. He was only able to move his head.
“On September 25, 2000, that was the last day that I ever saw my son walk again,” said his mother, Annette.
Since that time, Rocky has tried to do as much as a person can do while being able to only move his head. He has educated himself, graduated high school on time, helped coach his school’s football and track teams, and engaged in a multitude of other activities that you would never imagine a person being able to do in his condition. But he’s a fighter and an optimist, and doesn’t spend time feeling sorry for himself. I had instant respect for this young man when I met him.
I’ll admit that my visit with Rocky brought me to tears, as I looked at Rocky and saw my own little brother, who is about the same age as him. I was also hurt to find out that in spite of Rocky’s brave fight through his horrific condition, his old high school, Eisenhower High School in Blue Island, Illinois, has allowed his insurance to expire without providing another option for coverage. Health Special Risk, Inc, the company that provided Rocky’s family with (what they were told was) a “life time policy,” didn’t have a rep mention to the family that the policy expires when it hits a lifetime spending cap of $5 million dollars. So, when one considers the astronomical cost of special beds, breathing machines, advanced medication and around the clock nurses, you can see how quickly the cap is hit.
The insurance company’s little computers only predicted that Rocky would live a few more years. Their computers didn’t factor in Rocky’s heart and the fact that he is such a strong young man in both mind and body. They were unable to estimate the actuarial value of a young black man’s will to live. They got Rocky wrong, and now they want to just let him die.
Our website, SaveRockyClark.com, has one goal in mind: to let Health Special Risk, Inc and the Blue Island school district know that it’s wrong to let one of their former students/patients die because he lived too long for their comfort. We have thousands of people standing behind Rocky, and they are sending emails and making phone calls to the institutions responsible for Rocky’s situation. When I interviewed Rocky’s mom (which you can watch by clicking here), she made it clear that she’s not ready to bury her son and I’m not ready to bury her son either.
Rocky’s challenges also serve as a cautionary tale for so many young black men who are eager to run out onto the football field. When you stand tall, strong and capable, everyone loves you. But when that life threatening injury occurs and you’re in the hospital about to die, only your mother stands by your bed. Let’s make smart choices about sports and reconsider our commitment to the endeavors that are built to destroy us.