Save The Forgotten: Frank and Donna Zappin

$8,431 of $100,000 goal

Raised by 49 people in 4 months
Created February 28, 2019
Donna J Zappin
There are people in this world who’s lives have been destroyed, not by their own doing, but by the negligence, unlawful practices, or intentional and evil actions of others.  There are times when we hear from the media about a persons life being tragically altered, but there are other lives that simply disappear - they are the forgotten. Their names never make the headlines and the adversity they face is never told

It is often advertised that if a person is in despair or depressed and is considering the unthinkable, reach out before doing anything drastic. Our names are Frank and Donna Zappin and we are reaching out.  

This is our story. It’s a bit long but please be patient and read all the way through, it will help you to understand our emptiness. 

The Beginning Of The End

We have faced 13 years of continuous hardships, one right after the other.  To be clear, I’m not talking about the challenges we all face on a daily basis, I’m referring to devastating, life altering blows that never seem to end.   

We both lost our jobs in 2006 because the company we worked for was sold without notice to its employees.  We were able to find jobs, however, Frank was laid off again in 2008 due to the financial crisis which also caused us to lose everything we had invested for our future/retirement.  All we had left was a small savings account and a 401k.

The Medical Disaster

In 2007, Frank was diagnosed with lumbar scoliosis caused by degenerative disc disease. He had no idea he had this problem and was told eventually, corrective surgery would be needed. That date came in June of 2009 and it literally ruined our lives.  

We were told that Frank would be pain free and back to work in 6 months but that didn’t happen. Frank came out of surgery with his back fused from S1 to T11. In addition, he had Flat Back Syndrome columbiaspine.org  and Failed Back Surgery Syndrome, and once you have FBSS there is no cure, you are simply chasing your tail.  
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Beginning in 2009 through today, Frank has had seven surgeries, countless epidurals, two Rhizotomies, low frequency Spinal Cord Stimulator implanted and later removed, endless physical therapy, hardware removed and replaced, and drug cocktails that consist of opioids, pills that treat nerve pain and over the counter pain killers.  He takes all of these throughout the day, every single day and has not taken a break from the drugs since 2009 - he can’t, his pain level is off the chart as it is and nothing they do ever seems to help, it only gets worse.
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Frank never returned to work, was officially diagnosed as disabled and began collecting Social Security and Disability. This is a man who was proud and strong.  He could do anything he set his mind to.  He traveled extensively for business, dressing in suits and when he came home, he loved to work in the yard, go fishing, camping or golfing.  

Today, Frank is in bed 85% of the time.  The drug cocktail works for about an hour however, he cannot take more than prescribed or he’ll run out before his next refill.  In the very near future the drugs will stop working completely and the doctor said “You will go through withdrawals because we have nothing left to give you.”  There are days when he cant feel his legs and his feet drag the floor when he walks making him stumble. 

In July 2018, we were told by a Neurosurgeon that he has Epidural Fibrosis compressing his nerve root and the nerves all through his back.  I asked “why not remove it?”  And the Doctor replied “We can’t, it will just grow back.”  We left the Doctors office feeling devastated and to add insult to injury when we returned home, we had an IRS bill waiting for us for $2800.00.  Apparently our CPA made a mistake on our 2016 return. 

The Doctors have recently inserted leads for a High Frequency Spinal Cord Stimulator.  We are praying this offers him some type of relief as Frank has already been told by the Doctors that he is at the end of the line.  

To say he is emasculated and depressed does not begin to describe his emotions.

The Downward Spiral Continues

As for me in 2012, I lost the great job I had due to a reorg and was out of work for 6 months. Twice we had to withdraw from our 401k just to make ends meet - in 2008 when Frank lost his job and in 2012 when I lost mine. Both times we were punished by the IRS and had to pay severe penalties and interest.  Both times they told us “This does not constitute a hardship.”  

I took a chance and accepted a job working at a startup in Silicon Valley.  My thought was, if this turned out to be one of those companies that made it big, maybe I could make some of that future/retirement money back that we lost in 2008.  You simply can’t save or invest a large amount of money on one salary.  What I didn’t realize was how expensive California had become (we were living in NV at the time) or the long hours working at a startup required.  I was 55 years old when I accepted the job and had to work 16 - 18 hours a day. This was quickly taking a toll on me because I have a rare auto immune disease called Addisons.  

Stress is literally a killer for people with Addisons Disease.  Our adrenal glands do not produce the hormones our vital organs need to sustain life, therefore we must take steroids everyday in order to live.  If we don’t, we will die.  If stress becomes too great, we can go into crisis meaning our organs are shutting down. This is an emergency situation requiring hospitalization.  I have been in crisis twice.

The company became quite successful and because I was exercising my stock, the IRS told us we owed them $110,000. in AMT.  We were devastated beyond belief.  They said that I made additional income with my stock but in reality, my stock were pieces of paper in a safe.  The company is a privately held company which means I cannot sell my stock on the market, nor can I sell it to a private party. And the company will not buy it back, therefore, they are pieces of paper not money in our bank.  But the IRS doesn’t see it that way.  We had to deplete our savings, refinance our home, pull all the equity out and give all of this to the IRS. Then we had to make payment arrangements for the balance.  Of course, they add on penalties and interest each month.  

I could no longer exercise my stock because of this.

Donna’s Additional Medical Challenges

In 2016, I had to have Fundoplication surgery to move my stomach out of my chest and back down to where it was supposed to be. In 2017, I was diagnosed with an aggressive type of breast cancer and had a Bi-Lateral Mastectomy along with 4 reconstructive surgeries throughout 2017/2018.  The Doctor said additional surgeries may be required.  

I have also developed tremors. On some days the tremors are tolerable, but on other days they are so severe I can’t put toothpaste on my toothbrush or pour a beverage into a glass.  The Doctor said they will only get worse over time.

Each year I have to have a chest X-Ray so the Pulmonologists can measure the nodules in both of my lungs.  Because of the type of nodules they are: Ground Glass and Sub Solid, I have been diagnosed with atypical adenomatous hyperplasia which falls under the adenocarcinoma spectrum. They currently measure 4mm and if they grow to 5mm they will need to be resected.  Why I have this makes no sense - I have never been a smoker.  

And last week, my Endocrinologist stated that my kidney function was extremely low.  If it doesn’t improve this week, we will need to discuss “next steps” whatever that means.

I no longer have the sparkle in my eyes, the smile on my face or the bounce in my step.  I look tired and sad all the time and I feel like I’m carrying a 1000lb weight on my shoulders.  I don’t sleep well most nights because of the stress. I am weak, very sick, and feel like I’ve aged a 100 years and yet, I still must care for my husband who isn’t capable of taking care of me. He can’t even be at the hospital when I’m having surgery because of his pain.

Please Tell Me It Was A Nightmare

Two weeks after my first cancer operation, we flew to Guatemala to attend our son’s wedding.  He had fallen in love with a young woman who grew up in Guatemala and since her entire family was still there, Guatemala is where she wanted her wedding to take place. On the second day of our trip, we were both violently stabbed - Frank in the arm and shoulder and I was stabbed twice in the arm and once in the chest, the knife barely missing my heart. The police told us this was not a mugging it was an initiation into the MS-13 gang.  When they left us they attacked several other people, killing a 29 year old woman.  

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I suffer from horrible PTSD because of this.  I have never been afraid to go out in public on my own and now there are times when I sit in my car and cry.  I have nightmares and can see their smiling faces as they stab me.  I look at people differently now and know this is something I will never get over.  Yes I have tried to get help. I have called several therapists and leave a detailed message along with my contact information but I never receive a return phone call.  

Icing On The Cake

May 2018, the CEO/Co-Founder I supported was asked by the Board of Directors to resign and I lost my job two weeks later. Due to a strict confidentiality agreement I signed with the company, I cannot go into any further detail but if I could, you would shake your head in absolute disbelief. 

I collect disability, however that ends in June and I am still too sick and weak to return back to work. In addition I am my husbands full time caregiver. In September 2018, our bank account was hit three times by fraud for a total of $1000.00. and it took the bank three weeks to return our money.  This put us a month behind on our bills and we have not been able to catch up.

We put our home on the market and hopefully it will sell before it goes into foreclosure. I know most people think homeowners in CA can sell their home for millions, move to another state, pay cash for a new home and still have plenty of money left over.  That is not the case for us because we don’t live in Silicon Valley, we live 70 miles away in a very small community where the homes are valued in the mid $500k. There are several homes in our neighborhood that have been for sale for several months and the home values have declined $20k.

We have sold one car and surrendered one of our pets. We have contacted a rescue society to make arrangements to surrender the other one. You have no idea how heartbreaking this is but we can no longer afford to care for our animals.

I have tried to sell clothes online with very little success. And I have applied for countless “work from home” jobs, however, I have yet to receive an offer.  I read that CA has a program that will pay a loved one if they are the full time caregiver of their disabled spouse. I do not qualify because our only car is valued at more than $4000.00.  

There are a few organizations/associations for senior citizens in CA who advertise different services.  Not one of them has helped us, in fact all I have heard is “I’m sorry, no, we don’t do that.”

We often ask ourselves “how did this happen to us. We are educated, intelligent people, who planned for our future.”  We have worked hard all of our lives and enjoyed sharing the fruit of our labor to make others happy whenever we could. We have always been responsible adults, paying our bills on time, and proud of the great credit we had.  

Now, we are $2000.00 short each month and beginning in June, we will be $6800.00 short.  If the house doesn’t sell, we will be forced to move into our car and that thought is frightening for us.  Right now, we must choose between buying food or prescriptions.  Frank is a 72 year old disabled veteran and I am 61 and very unhealthy and we feel we have exhausted all of our options.

Imagine if you will, a life with absolutely no hope or light at the end of the tunnel.  A life with no future, no happiness, no laughter.  You are no longer living, you are just existing, breathing air and you don’t want to wake up the next day for fear of what the day will bring.  Just close your eyes and imagine this life…..for 13 years.  Even before I lost my job, we could no longer do anything or go anywhere because Frank is in too much pain. We could not even go to dinner. We just sit at home or go to doctor appointments. 

We have planned the unthinkable because this is just too hard to continue. Again, there are advertisements on TV, social media, etc saying if you’re desperate, reach out for help, don’t do anything drastic.  We have reached out and to no avail.  And our situation just keeps getting worse.  What are people like us supposed to do?

I have left out so many other things, it would take a novel to explain all of the horrible situations we have faced over the last 13 years.

We Need Your Help Please

Honestly, we have no idea how much money to ask for. 

My COBRA payment is $656. a month. If I can’t pay that, I will no longer be able to receive the medical care and prescriptions I desperately need just to stay alive.  I will no longer be able to have COBRA insurance beginning January 2020 and will have to pay for private insurance which will cost approx $2700. a month for 2.5 years until I qualify for Medicare.  

We would like to be able to stay in our home until it sells.  There is no crystal ball telling us when that would happen, but this is a priority for us therefore some of the money will go towards keeping the home out of foreclosure and us from living in our car.

And finally, if our home sells, we would like to move to a more affordable, senior friendly state, so some of the money will be used for moving expenses.  

We urgently ask that you help us by donating to our campaign.  And equally important is sharing our story with your network on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email, and Text Message. Please ask the people in your network to donate and then share it with people in their network and so on, and so on.  Each share makes a real difference!
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We apologize for the late update, we have yet to catch a break and the heaviness continues to build. Donna received a phone call today from Detective Daniel Victoria of the San Joaquin County Sheriffs Department. He informed her that her father shot himself in the head, committing suicide early this afternoon. Because her father was extremely abusive to his wife and children, none of the family members chose to stay in touch with him after her mother divorced him about 7 years ago. Donna made a few trips to see him, honoring a request her son made, but he was always the evil man she knew growing up in his home. Knowing this, you would think it would be easy to let it go, but unfortunately the family couldn't have a happy ending to a very sad story. Tomorrow (Friday) Donna and her Brother will need to go to his apartment, collect his belongings, donate what he has which is very little and arrange for pick up, arrange for crime scene clean up (yes they have to see the mess he left behind), remove his car, etc. She was told the siblings would be financially responsible for certain things since they are the next of kin. I am worried about her - I don't know how much more she can take.

Does it ever end?
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To all of you kind and generous people. This is the first month we will be able to pay our bills, buy food AND prescriptions! Thank you!

Frank's stimulator trial wasn't a huge success however they have scheduled surgery for placement of the permanent stimulator with the thought that minimum relief is better than none.

We are praying for more donations therefore, please help us get the word out.

May God bless all you!

Frank and Donna
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Everyone, words cannot express the gratitude Donna and I have for your generosity. Because of you, your donations and your shares, we have raised over $2000. in 24 hours! This will cover the shortage we would have faced in the month of March. If you haven't already done so, please share the link to our story with your network and encourage them to donate and share our link with their network and so on. We have an aggressive goal but I'm hopeful with kindness shown in 24 hours, humanity will come through for us with a little help from our friends. THANK YOU!
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$8,431 of $100,000 goal

Raised by 49 people in 4 months
Created February 28, 2019
Donna J Zappin
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