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Angela Tillotson

Angela is a life-long resident of Lebanon, and it is there that she shares a loving home with her husband Jeff, and her two wonderful step-sons, Aiden and Jonathan.

Jonathan is a quick-witted, energetic, and loving 9-year-old boy. He is quick to think of others first and has been a great brother to Aiden. Even though Jonathan is three years younger than Aiden, he has taken over the older brother role.

Jonathan’s brother, Aiden, is a typical 12-year-old in many ways. He is a joyful and mischievous boy who loves to watch basketball, listen to music, and watch the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Angela says he wakes every morning with a smile on his face.

However, unlike most children his age, Aiden is a medically fragile child with a high level of need. Aiden is non-verbal and suffers from brain damage after enduring multiple seizures and illnesses. Aiden cannot dress, feed, or bathe himself. He relies on a feeding tube and sixty hours per week of nursing. For Aiden, TennCare is a lifeline.

That lifeline was threatened when Aiden and Jonathan were cut from TennCare abruptly last May. The family filed a new application the next day, but the children were initially denied because of an error in counting resources. The family appealed and the mistake was corrected. Aiden and Jonathan were able to get TennCare through the Medically Needy Spend Down program, which uses a family’s recent medical bills to qualify children for TennCare.

Sadly, the family received a letter a few weeks later stating that they did not submit enough medical bills to meet Spend Down. Angela was confident that the family had submitted enough bills to qualify Aiden and Jonathan. Feeling frustrated and alone, she called TJC for help. Looking back, Angela notes that she called TJC because she “didn’t know where else to turn. Everywhere we looked, we reached a wall. TJC were the first people that were able to help.”

TJC wrote a letter to the State detailing the family’s situation and the medical expenses they had submitted. The State reviewed the letter and agreed that the family had submitted enough medical bills to qualify the children for TennCare. After a long, tough, and confusing battle, Aiden and Jonathan were approved for TennCare in December 2012, more than seven months after they should have been eligible.

Just like nearly every parent across the state, Angela dreams of Aiden and Jonathan growing up and succeeding. For Jonathan, she hopes he will go to college. For Aiden, the goals are a little different, though equally profound. She wants Aiden to be able to gain some independence in daily life skills, but most of all, she dreams of Aiden being able to walk. The medical care and treatment that Aiden and Jonathan can now access helps ensure that they will have the opportunity to grow, be healthy, and flourish to make those dreams a possibility.

When asked why Angela stood up to make sure her children receive the care they need, she says “How do you not? Because if we don’t fight and speak up for them, they don’t have a voice. If I don’t fight for their basic needs, who else is going to? They will slip through the cracks if I don’t fight for them.” Because of Angela’s courage and willingness to speak up and keep fighting for Aiden and Jonathan, we are proud to honor her as a 2013 TJC Mother of the Year.

Photo credit: Rasha Dowell

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