Mexican surrealist Frida Kahlo famously wrote in her diary: "Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?"
The sentiment reverberates on mother of four and self-professed "nature girl" Robin Sullins, who, after suffering a dog bite last Christmas, developed a rare medical condition that cost her her fingers and both legs at the knee.
Family dogs as well as visiting dogs had gathered around the dinner table, vying for scraps. Two of them got in a fight, and Sullins was bitten when she stepped in to break it up. Her arm wrapped up and bandaged, the group called it a night. In the following days, Sullins fell ill. Two days after the initial bite, she was feverish, and her kidneys and lungs began to shut down.
In the ICU, Capnocytophaga was detected in her blood. It's a bacteria common in dogs and cats, but an extremely rare infection in humans—only 100 cases have been recorded in the last 40 years.
What follows, as recorded on her website robinsullins.com, is the ultimate challenge for the human spirit, as a family is tested, extreme decisions are made and financial ruin is imminent.
This Saturday, a special benefit is staged at POP Gallery to help aid Sullins' towering medical expenses.
Titled Soul and Sole, the evening features a silent auction of one-of-a-kind pieces, like Bev Hogue’s “Wings of Desire” (pictured), and embellished designer shoes and boots.
“It’s everything from art to jewelry; canvases to limited editions and originals,” POP’s Sharla Throckmorton-McDowell advances.
In between hectic organizational moments, the gallerist seems confident the local community will rally around the cause. “Santa Fe is a community that is always full of life and energy and passion for animals, and this is a story that touches people’s hearts and circumvents people’s lives,” she says.
“Most importantly, Robin is in need of support—financial, emotional and medical—and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Robin’s sister, Angi Sullins—who, along with her husband, runs Duirwaigh Studios in Taos—tells SFR.
Sullins says that along with seeing her sister go though this “painful and rather horrifying situation,” the fact that she was self-employed and uninsured at the time added a whole new level of grief.
The situation, Sullins explains, did not end with the amputations. Robin also developed “major internal complications”—complications that, among other things, forced her to have her spleen removed. “It’s pretty horrific; there are no two ways around it,” she says.
Adding insult to the list of injuries, Sullins herded world-class art for a series of charity auctions on eBay, with the proceeds destined for her sister’s care. But the company shut them down. Twice. Because of the situation’s urgency, the Sullins’ hadn’t established a 501(c)(3)—an official nonprofit status that in most cases, she points out, can take up to a year.
The online giant ultimately allowed Sullins to re-post the items, but with the stipulation that she couldn’t mention Robin’s condition. “It set us back time, energy, efforts, everything,” she says. “It was a stripped-down version of what we hoped to accomplish.”
Sullins says that, “anytime anyone steps out of their comfort zone to help, there’s a benefit for everyone involved.” She considers this weekend’s efforts “a ray of light into a dark situation for everyone involved.”
Throckmorton-McDowell agrees. “Rather than focusing in the travesty, we focus on the unfolding miracle that is Robin’s new journey,” she says.
Let’s round up the troops, Santa Fe. Together, we can give Sullins a chance to soar.
6-8 pm Saturday, May 25. Free.
POP Gallery, 142 Lincoln Ave., 820-0788
Santa Fe Reporter