The following post is from my wife, Jody. Unfortunately, we are needing to reach out to the wonderful, global community that I have been so privileged to be a part of, seeking help for my family. You can either read the letter below, or go to our YOUCARING site and see/hear my wife’s video statement at:
Thank you so very much.
Hello, my name is Jody Breneman.
I am reaching out to you today on behalf of my husband Bob Sprankle. My hope is to advocate for his health, his rights and his dignity because the life he once knew has been turned upside down.
First by a debilitating medical condition that has robbed him of his ability to teach, and second by the Maine Public Employees Retirement System, which has inexplicably rejected his repeated attempts to apply for the disability benefits that he has invested in, that he deserves and that he now desperately needs – to help him medically and to provide for our family.
Bob Sprankle has devoted himself to caring for and educating children for over 25 years – In 1998 Bob began his 17 year career at Wells Elementary School, in Wells, Maine. He was a well-loved and well-respected classroom teacher whose work inspired students, families and fellow educators.
He was a prominent voice in education who earned honors and international recognition for his work advancing the integration of technology in our schools. Bob lived to be in the classroom, helping his students explore the world of ideas and discover what they were passionate about.
If you google “bob sprankle,” or visit bobtaughtme.com/bitbybit_wordpress you will get a sense of the depth and breadth of his work and his impact, not only in education, but through his art.
But in a nightmare that began in 2007 in an operating room to repair a hernia by implanting polypropylene mesh, he now suffers daily, debilitating neuropathic pain and other health complications that make it impossible for him to perform the job he loves; and worse, has rendered him, in his own words, a “ghost” of his former self.
Unfortunately, Bob is not alone in this. Through years of research and reaching out for help, we have come to learn that thousands of people suffer severe complications due to polypropylene mesh. We have talked to them, we read their daily struggle in our online support groups and discussion forums, and we know all too well how their lives have become consumed with trying to find answers, receive medical support and deal with the incredible pain that comes with this condition.
After years of dutifully and courageously trying every medical intervention recommended – both traditional and alternative, from Maine to Boston – it became clear to his doctors, co-workers, friends and family that he simply could not sustain his teaching career any longer. Bob was the last to be convinced because teaching was what he lived for.
Bob applied for disability from the Maine Public Employees Retirement System three times. To the utter disbelief of those who have witnessed his decline, his applications were denied twice, and a third time “administratively dismissed.”
With each denial, Bob tried to return to work, both in his classroom and at a less physically taxing, home-based job for an educational website, but was unable to sustain these positions due to his condition. (Bob is no longer able to work for www.mathplayground.com, as mentioned in the post above).
Yet somehow, MainePERS and their medical review board determined that the opinions and diagnoses of Bob’s doctors and our eight years of unceasing efforts to find out why he experiences so much pain did not provide compelling enough evidence to approve his application.
We trusted that this system was there to help us. So to be told at one point that my husband, who is literally consumed in pain throughout much of each day, suffers “no functional limitations,” was devastating. Why would a man who had invested so much of his life in teaching the children of the state of Maine, choose to apply for disability unless he felt it was his only option?
Today, we are regularly asked why Bob doesn’t apply for disability under the federal Social Security system. What most people don’t know or understand, is that teachers and other state workers in Maine are required to pay into the MainePERS system and are prohibited from making contributions to Social Security.
This means that not only has Bob lost his job and all of the benefits that it provided him and our family, but also that he cannot receive ANY kind of disability compensation whatsoever - now or in the future.
And so, in hopes of raising awareness and support, not only about Bob’s plight with this devastating medical condition, but about the unfair treatment he and many others receive as they reach out for assistance, I, with the help of dear family and friends have built a page for Bob on the crowdsourcing site YouCaring:
We call it “Teacher Bob Sprankle Needs Your Help.” Please go to the site and spread the word so that together we can raise the awareness and funds needed to help Bob.
I thank you so very much for taking the time to listen. Thank you so very much for your support.