Help us get Rich back to work!

Dear community,
I really don't like asking for help like this - in fact I prefer to give it whenever possible - so it's very hard for me to swallow my pride and create this page but it needs to be done. We have tapped out all of our resources and really need the help and support of the people around us right now. We sincerely thank you in advance for taking the time to read this. Here is our story:

Sometime in the spring of 2008 my husband Rich felt something in his back pop while lifting a concrete block. He said it hurt really bad for a few days but ibuprofen was enough to dull the pain and after awhile it was tolerable... but it didn't go away completely. Rich chalked it up to "getting old" and dealt with it. Then, in August of 2008, the company that Rich worked for closed it's doors and he lost his job. But, by some miracle I managed to find a new job that October which had better pay than my current job and excellent benefits. This was such a relief for us because now Rich could finally see a doctor about his nagging back pain.
But there was a catch - before I had my new job Rich had gone to a walk-in for the pain where they did an x-ray of his back just to make sure he didn't break something. He did not have insurance at the time so unfortunately that one x-ray sealed his fate. When I was finally able to add him to my new insurance it was determined that his back problems were  "pre-existing" so they wouldn't cover anything related to his back for an entire year! Obviously we could not afford to send him to a doctor and pay out of pocket in the interim. The money just was not there. He tried finding a new job but the crummy economy and his back pain just kept getting worse.

During that first year his health rapidly declined and the pain became non-stop to the point where he could no longer do even simple tasks around the house. I had to take a lot of time off of work. By the time he was able to see a doctor on our insurance getting a new job for him was no longer a possibility. He couldn't even get out of bed some mornings. So, we applied for disability. To give you an idea of how bad of shape he was in, SSD approved him in just under 4 months. For anyone that has dealt with SSD you know that has to be some kind of record. It was a very sad time for us.

Fast forward to now - 6 years, 3 neurosurgeons plus a bunch of other doctors, countless injections and medications, 2 surgeries, and a LOT of medical bills later - and Rich's pain is worse than ever before.

Rich has lost over 70 lbs and no longer looks like a 35 year old man. Since our son was 6 years old he has not been able to play with him physically (no basketball, no baseball, no running, no wrestling, etc.). Our son is 12 now and has never really gotten to know his dad in that respect because he hasn't had the chance, which really hurts my heart. We have left school concerts early because of his pain, enduring the judgemental and disdainful looks from the parents seated around us as we got up to leave (it's courtesy to sit through the entire thing even though it's nearly impossible for Rich to do) so now, rather than dealing with that, he stays home if the pain is really bad. So he's missing all of these things... and our son is missing out on his dad. 

This all started with a buldging disc and now he has what they call Failed Back Surgery Syndrome. Essentially there is scar tissue compressing a nerve in his back and there is fluid built up around the area where he has been operated on as well as a lot of inflammation. They can also see that the disc is still pressing on his nerve root.

Of course he could sit on the couch and pop pain pills all day and maybe get close to being pain-free but what kind of life is that? We want a solution to this problem, not a deadly band-aid for the symptoms. I so desperately want to free my husband from this prison of pain that he has been living in so I searched everywhere I could for a possible key... and I may have finally found it!

Because today we received some promising news!! There is a clinic in NJ that believes they can help my husband. FINALLY something positive! The only problem is, of course, MONEY.

Thankfully the procedure they want to perform is covered by our insurance plan. So long as the insurance company feels it will help him, that is (we have to get pre-certification first which will be done later). Even if everything is a go, there is still a hefty co-pay that is our responsibility. There are also the travel and lodging expenses because this clinic/doctor is about a 3 1/2 hour drive away from where we live and we will have to stay overnight for several days at a time. I've taken what our estimated co-pay would be along with estimated travel and lodging expenses and made that figure our goal. If we raise more than the goal - which would be awesome! - then any excess funds will go towards paying past and future medical bills and related expenses. Believe me, we have plenty yet to pay!

Any and all donations are greatly appreciated no matter how small. If you can only give $5 then that's $5 more than we had, right? That will definitely pay a highway toll or two. :) But honestly, we are grateful for ANY sort of support that you can offer, even if it's just a positive thought or sharing this page with others. If it helps fix my husband in any way than I am forever in your debt. :)

Again we thank you so much for taking the time to read this. We SINCERELY hope that NONE of you ever have to be in this position as well, but if you ever are, please know that we will do what we can to support you, too!
Peace and love,
The Sharpe's
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Shannon Sharpe 
Vestal, NY
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