Watch CBS News

5-Year-Old Girl Finally Gets New Wheelchair Thanks To Anonymous Donor -- After 2-Year Insurance Struggle

CHICAGO (CBS Chicago) -- A 5-year-old suburban Chicago girl finally got a new wheelchair this week, after a two-year struggle and a CBS Chicago investigation into insurance denials. But it wasn't the insurer that covered her chair. It was an anonymous donor who stepped up.

It all came together after WBBM-TV's story by reporter Tim McNicholas.

Like daughter, like mother. Patricia Roon and 5-year-old Martina were laughing when we met them – they couldn't contain their excitement. They were minutes away from seeing Martina's new wheelchair for the first time. "I'm anxious and I think she's anxious," Roon said. "It's been a long time coming – too long."

It was a moment so big that Martina kept her eyes closed for the reveal. It was also a moment years in the making.

Back in February, Martina was the focus of a months-long WBBM investigation into insurance denials on necessary medical equipment. BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois denied her twice, even though a letter from the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab described her various medical conditions.

"It feels sometimes like I have to fight and fight for what we already know that these things really are essential for them," said occupational therapist Jeannette Wilder.

When we first met Martina, she tried to walk home with mom's help, but then fell climbing back into her wheelchair. It was generously loaned to her by a local charity, but as her mom explained, it's too big. After that story aired, McNicholas got an email from someone who asked to stay anonymous. They said the story brought them to tears, and they wanted to do what Martina's insurer would not – pay for the wheelchair.

It was an eye-opening moment, which led to another eye-opening moment when Martina saw the new wheelchair at last.

"Love it – yay!" she said.

Like daughter like mother, excitement was overflowing. "It's very awesome and very exciting, and I've been trying to get it for a very long time," Roon said.

And the Roons have a message for that donor: "I hope they can see the emotion on my face and how grateful and truly thankful I am," Roon said. "And you guys are amazing, and thank you so much."

Roon said the chair will help Martina join her friends on the playground, or perhaps the zoo.

"Seeing the penguins!" Martina said.

For now, they're off to explore the city, excitement and all.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois says they are now working to make the claims process easier for medical necessities, like wheelchairs. Their full statement is below:

"To protect the privacy of our members, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) does not disclose their personal or benefit information.

"Regarding wheelchairs, we are making several changes.

"BCBSIL is revising the on-line medical necessity and home evaluation form that some of our plans require to make it easier for providers. We're also accepting non-BCBSIL forms with similar information for plans that currently use the on-line form under revision. We also are planning to launch increased provider education on our review processes."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.