“Born under a bad sign,
I been down since I begin
to crawl; if it wasn’t for
bad luck, I wouldn’t
have no luck at all.”
Those words, from the old Albert King tune, “Born Under a Bad Sign,” could preface many stories, but few so aptly as that of Robin Sova. For the past 10 years, the Sheridan woman’s life has been one long series of near misses and catastrophes, most health related, some man made.
Sova’s ordeal began 10 years ago on a day traditionally associated with good luck — St. Patrick’s Day. She was teaching physically and mentally challenged children for the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District. St. Pat’s that year was a snow day, however.
“I wasn’t feeling that good,” Sova recollects. “I drove myself to the hospital and they said I was having a heart attack.”
It was serious. Sova was taken to a hospital in Lansing, and then flown via AeroMed to Ann Arbor’s University of Michigan health facilities, where she remained for about a month.
Another heart attack followed a few years later, on Memorial Day, most likely brought on by stress and Sova’s persistent diabetes. And yet another heart attack followed not long after.
Then three years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which required a mastectomy.
Last May it was the diabetes again. From Sheridan to a hospital in Grand Rapids, again via AeroMed due to her extremely elevated blood sugar level.
Around that same time, she and her husband went through a divorce.
Then, this January, she again found herself on the operating table, this time undergoing open heart surgery. Following micro-valve work on her heart, she stayed several weeks with her parents, Bruce and Vicki Lund, while recuperating.
To say that Sova’s health is precarious is an understatement. Her insurance — currently being paid with a loan from her parents — runs about $600 per month. Sova has no income nor any practical means of earning one. She has been repeatedly denied disability from the Social Security Administration.
Doug Nguyen, deputy regional communications director for the Social Security Administration, says their investigation indicates Sova, though impaired, is still able to work.
“While the medical information shows that Ms. Sova has difficulties related to her condition, it was determined they were not severe enough to prevent her from working,” Nguyen said. “An individual’s impairment must prevent him or her from working and must have lasted or (be) expected to last at least one year or result in death.”
The SSA uses a five-step process to determine whether an individual meets the department’s definition of disability. That process looks at an individual’s medical condition as well as the work activity related to his or her profession.
“If anybody needs disability, it’s her,” says Bruce Lund. “She can’t work at all. She’s gone to a couple lawyers, but they don’t seem to be doing anything for her.”
According to Sova, she has been informed it will likely be anywhere from 13 to 18 months before a judge will be assigned to consider her case. A wait of this length is typical, Nguyen says, due to the administration’s heavy caseload.
Meanwhile, for Sova, each day remains a battle not just to stay healthy, but to survive.
“I’m borrowing money from my folks,” Sova says. “I used to have insurance through the school, but now I’m paying $600 a month for it. I have to borrow from my parents for everything. It’s hard.”
According to her doctor, disability payments based on a heart condition — even one so obvious and serious as Sova’s — are extremely difficult to obtain.
“One of my heart docs said I’d be better off with a back injury as far as getting disability goes,” Sova says. “He said people with heart conditions have a really tough time of it.”
For now, Sova has no choice but to wait. And hope that her luck will change.
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