Mom Slammed by Hurricane Sandy, Then ALS Diagnosis


Last July, Schochet began to notice other strange symptoms. She had difficulty walking in her high heels and the fine motor skills in her hands were weakening. Her finger began to curl, but she ignored it.

In October, Schochet was at home looking for work when Hurricane Sandy struck. She had put her children to sleep on a sofa bed in the basement, fearing falling trees.

"About 11:30, I heard a huge crash and it smelled absolutely awful," said Schochet. "Water was coming in everywhere. I had never seen anything like it in my life. I grabbed the kids and whatever I could save and put down towels. Nothing worked. The water was rising and rising."

Rescue workers arrived in wet suits and scuba gear and extricated the family from the house in two shifts. The Schochets spent part of the night at the firehouse and the rest at a Red Cross shelter.

The family lived out of suitcases for a month with friends and family, then moved into a rental home with a long commute to the children's school. Sabrina had another corrective surgery and a six-week recovery period.

By January, the family moved back home where the basement and foundation were "a complete mess." All the utilities were lost and the insurance company paid to replace the boiler. Heat on one side of the house was still not working as they awaited a gas line from the national grid.

"When they finally installed our heat, they cut the line to the air conditioning," she said. "We are having trouble getting the guys back to install our AC before it gets too hot."

Their insurance company, Allstate, denied the claim for foundation work because of a sinkhole, which wasn't covered under the policy, according to Schochet.

"But the sinkhole isn't a real sinkhole -- it was caused by running water," she said. "It isn't structural and the ground is stable. ... The company isn't playing fair."

April Eaton, corporate relations manager for Allstate, said the company had a "strong record" of responding to Hurricane Sandy claims of more than $718 million.

"We are handling this as fairly as we can, based on what we see," she said. "We are really working hard with people to do the right thing. I feel for this family and am frustrated for people going through Hurricane Sandy -- it's hard."

She said the Schochets have two policies with Allstate, a homeowner's one, in which all claims were paid, and flood insurance, which is strictly regulated by the National Flood Insurance Program. (NFIP)

"We only do what they tell us to do -- we are legally bound," she said of NFIP. "They have the policy language that we follow and a certified flood adjuster, based on what they see, reports back."

In the dispute over foundation damage and the sinkhole, Eaton said article 5, exclusions section C, stipulates that the flood policy will not insure earth movement, "even by flood."

"Because of that, the claim was denied," she said. "We are operating on behalf of NFIP and we have to follow these guidelines. … We've got to go by the rules. There is no wiggle room around this."

Meanwhile, Schochet's hands continued to weaken and, in February, her husband urged her to see a neuromuscular neurologist, who determined she had the same gene for ALS as her mother. She was put on medication, but told there was no cure.

One doctor told her she would only live two to four years more. Another told her ALS diagnoses were variable.

"I liked that one better," she said.

Before even looking at house renovations to accommodate her illness, the Schochets estimated repairs to the existing house will cost $150,000.

Their homeowner's policy paid for wind damage to the siding, electric work and a fence.

The flood policy with the company replaced the boiler, but not foundation and concrete damage, an old oil tank removal and repairs from the house shifting.

"There are so many programs that do this," Schochet said of television reality shows. "We have to get their attention now. We could save our money and get permits the regular way but that could take years, and I don't have years."

Still, she is optimistic: "I just see things can be miserable or I can go on with life."

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