Robin Roat

Robin Roat has endured her share of hardship. At 64, she already has been widowed three times. Her medical challenges over the last 12 years include a heart attack, enduring the insertion of multiple stents and undergoing what she estimates to be more than 50 procedures to save her legs from advancing vascular disease.

But even against that backdrop, she’s eager to share her laugh and seek the silver lining in things while making her way as a single mother of two who works full-time and enjoys everything from sewing to refinishing furniture.

“I have to keep moving,” she says from her home in Big Rapids. “And I just take things one day at a time. With Dr. Mustapha in my corner, I don’t have to suffer.”

Robin was born and raised in the Lansing area, the youngest of three born to a father who worked for Bell Telephone (still golfing at age 99!) and a mother who was employed by the State of Michigan. Robin graduated from Lansing Everett High School in 1973 and worked five years in the automotive industry before earning her Medical Assistant certificate.

On a whim, she moved to Big Rapids: “I had no idea this place existed. I just went for a drive and saw a house for sale and moved up here.” She currently works as a phlebotomist, drawing blood for Spectrum Health Big Rapids, a 20-minute walk from her home.

Her health problems surfaced while she was previously working for another lab where “way too many people were bringing in goodies,” and she suffered a heart attack brought on, in part, by high cholesterol.

She began taking meds to control her situation and remained active by walking and bicycling, but around 2008 began experiencing cramping in her legs. “I thought it was just low magnesium,” she recalls, but learned it was vascular disease.

She consulted a vascular surgeon, but “he wasn’t doing anything for me” and so she eventually went online and discovered Dr. Mustapha.

How have things changed? Let’s just say that Robin keeps a stack of Dr. Mustapha’s business cards at her side while taking people’s blood – and isn’t shy about passing them out to patients in need. “I just tell ‘em, ‘You need to see this guy; he’s a pioneer, he’s been all over the world and he can help you.’”

Dr. Mustapha, says Robin, “has been saving me for five years. I call what he does ‘Roto-Rootering’ (and says it with that laugh!), basically having the plaque shaved off my arteries.”

Robin likes to point out that she’s been involved in medicine nearly her entire adult life, so she’s seen a lot of different ways personnel interact with patients. With Dr. Mustapha, she says, “We’re family. He listens to you. And he takes away the pain. I can’t say enough about him and his whole office. They really care.”

Robin also continues to rely on her positive attitude: “I know I’ll have this disease for the rest of my life,” she says, “but I’m going to make the best of it.”