The Tennessee Justice Center is honored to recognize Ms. Natalie Rottarr as a 2021 Caregiver of the Year for her caregiving spirit, dedication, and support for her brother, Paul.
Ms. Rottarr is the primary caregiver and staunch advocate for her brother, Paul, who suffered a life-changing accident in 2020 that left him with numerous injuries and for which he has had multiple surgeries. He sustained a traumatic brain injury, is now blind in one eye, and had overall visual impairment which affects his depth perception. He has limited mobility and balance issues due to a spinal injury and skin grafts on his right leg. He is in almost constant pain with little relief. Paul’s healthcare situation is worsened as he is in the gap, not eligible for coverage from TennCare. He is waiting on a disability determination, but in the meantime, Natalie continues to fight to try and get healthcare and much-needed physical therapy for Paul to improve his quality of life. TJC helped connect their family to resources in the meantime that provide some medical services while they wait and are working to help them access marketplace coverage now.
Ms. Rottarr is a mother to three children ages seven, two-and-a-half, and ten months and has been a firefighter and EMT for the Nashville Fire Department since 2014. She was previously an EMT in the emergency room at Skyline Hospital. Ms. Rottarr said, “I became a firefighter/EMT to help people.”
Ms. Rottarr is the eldest of three children and deeply committed to her family and particularly to her two younger brothers. This award recognizes her care for her brother Paul, but she has also provided that same care and assistance to her other brother who suffered a life-altering accident in 2018. Ms. Rottarr stepped in after that brother’s accident in Michigan and brought him to Nashville to get effective medical care for him that she knew he needed and could not get in Michigan. She continues to be a strong advocate for him.
Ms. Rottarr said that before Paul’s accident, he had a contagious smile, a great personality with a free spirit, and was always seeking to help others. Paul worked as a wind turbine engineer and was one of the top three people in the world in his field. Paul stopped working in 2018 after their brother’s accident, to help their parents take care of the brother in Michigan. Now two years later, Paul requires the same type of help he provided to his brother, and Ms. Rottarr has again stepped up to the plate. Ms. Rottarr states that Paul is very different since his accident, but “there’s still a lot of him there that’s hard to see because he is in so much pain and discomfort.” Ms. Rottarr works full time and cares for her children and still makes time for Paul’s doctor’s appointments while navigating Tennessee’s complicated health system. Despite his frustration at not being able to enjoy the quality of life he once did, Ms. Rottarr stated that Paul is always very thankful and constantly tells her that he doesn’t know what he would do if she wasn’t there to take care of him. She wanted to make sure her story included her gratitude for her significant other, who supports and helps her as she helps her family, her parents, and her employer.
Ms. Rottarr used to enjoy hobbies such as whitewater rafting, hunting, woodcarving, and working on her Jeep. However, between family, work, and fighting for Paul, little time is left to pursue her hobbies, but she is taking time when she can find it to rebuild a beloved Jeep. When asked “why is it important to fight for the healthcare needs of all people in Tennessee?” Ms. Rottarr said, “People that fall through the cracks need someone to help them not end up on the streets or dead. It’s also important to help the people who have someone fighting for them, like I am fighting for my brother, to get the help we need when we don’t know where to go to help the people we love.”
Ms. Rottarr’s tireless fighting and caregiving for her brother demonstrate the selflessness and strength that we honor on Mother’s Day.
Photo Credit: Lisa Link of KPL Photography