Donor’s workman’s compensation suspended, reinstated

David Harper, the 38-year-old Mount Morris man who recently donated his kidney to 5-year-old Angela Rushford, temporarily had his workman’s compensation suspended by the Hartford Insurance Group and then promptly reinstated after The Rock River Times inquired about the incident late Tuesday.

Harper’s attorney received a letter from the insurance company shortly after the Jan. 3 kidney transplant informing Harper that the company had suspended his workman’s compensation because he was out of town and unable to work.

When first contacted, Cynthia Michener, Hartford Insurance Group spokesman, confirmed that Harper’s workman’s compensation had been suspended. She called back a short while later to confirm that his workman’s compensation had been reinstated and that he would be receiving his workman’s compensation check as scheduled.

She said the confusion may have occurred because the company was unaware as to why Harper was out of town. She said Harper had given a different reason for leaving town other than the kidney transplant. Consequently, the company may have taken the situation as a withdrawal from the company’s job placement program, Michener said.

“If someone takes themselves out of the job placement program, they will have their worker’s compensation revoked until they re-enter it,” Michener said.

Harper said he found out about the suspension after the transplant, although he notified the insurance company in advance that he was going to be out of town. He said he didn’t tell them why he would be out of town.

“I didn’t think it was any of their business,” Harper said. “I told them I was going out of town for a week. I didn’t tell them why. So I travel to Wisconsin for a week, and you cut me off? That doesn’t make sense.”

This is the second time Harper has had his workman’s compensation suspended. The insurance company also suspended Harper’s workman’s compensation in October 2002 when he was out of town for six days visiting his brother, Tim Myrick, in a hospital in Houston, Texas. Myrick passed away from complications to the AIDS virus that week at age 34.

Harper said it took about a month to get his workman’s compensation reinstated the first time. After it was reinstated, he received his paychecks a week behind as opposed to a week ahead, which is when he received them before the workman’s compensation was suspended.

“The whole ordeal has been terrible,” Harper said. “I’ve always worked and tried to do my part. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Harper said he received a call from Michelle Farmer, the woman who has been hired by the insurance company to help him find a job, apologizing for the most recent suspension early Tuesday.

Harper said he would be more understanding of the suspension if he had a job lined up. But finding a job has been particularly difficult for Harper because his only experience is as a welder and as a construction worker, both of which he is unable to do because of his injury.

“At this point, they’re putting together a resumé for me,” Harper said. “I can’t weld anymore—that’s out of the question. I can’t do anything that requires heavy lifting.”

Harper has been on workman’s compensation since he injured his back while on the job as a welder in August 2001. He had multilevel fusion surgery, which linked together the L4, L5 and S1 vertebrae in his back with pins and screws. The surgery took 12 hours.

Harper, who has two children—David, 15, and Kyle, 13—said his workman’s compensation is “what we survive on.” Harper’s wife Shelah earns what he called a “meager” salary as a nurse at the Diecke Home adult mental health facility in Lombard. He said he and his wife would be lucky to make $18,000 this year, after making about $49,000 the year before.

Harper, who said he is still a little sore after the transplant, will not have to cover any of the costs of the transplant.

“We’re to the point where we’re going to have to file for bankruptcy,” Harper said. “And we’ve been struggling to get that together. We’re living from penny to penny.”

Both Harper’s attorney and his nurse care manager had not returned phone calls at the time of publication.

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