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Denise MacMahon

The Tennessee Justice Center is honoring Denise McMahon as a 2019 Mother of the Year for her relentless determination to get her son the medical care that he needs.

Denise lives with her 19-year old son Jakob and 2 of her grandkids in a rural area of Putnam County. She has always been a stay-at-home mom because her children are her passion.

Denise describes Jakob as an amazing young man who is incredibly optimistic, articulate, and intelligent. “If you know him, you absolutely love him. His ability to face life head on is his best quality. He doesn’t get down. He’s just positive.” Jakob’s father passed away when he was two years old, and Jakob is Denise’s youngest child by 11 years, so they have always been very close. They have a very special mother-son relationship built on trust and admiration for each other. “When something is going on, he is always honest with me with how he feels. He knows that when I need to stand behind him, that’s where I am. When I need to stand beside him, that’s where I am. When I need to stand in front of him, that’s where I am.”

A few years ago, Jakob was diagnosed with primary immunodeficiency, which means that he does not produce the antibodies that are required to fight infections in his body. As a result, he can become sick very easily. Because Jakob is allergic to all the antibiotics typically used to treat primary immunodeficiency, he receives a life-sustaining infusion of immunoglobulin every 28 days, which are proteins that function as antibodies.

Jakob’s infusion treatments are very expensive, but they were covered by TennCare in full since the McMahons moved to Tennessee in 2016.  However, in November 2018, they received a letter from TennCare stating that his coverage would end the following month with little explanation. Denise appealed the denial, requested that he keep his coverage during the appeal, and called TJC for further assistance, where she got in touch with Nicole.

Nicole helped Denise with the complicated process of cancelling her appeal, reapplying for TennCare, and making sure Jakob had a high enough medical bill to qualify for coverage. Jakob could not be uninsured for more than 28 days because he needed insurance to get his treatment, so timing was very important throughout this process. Denise said, “It was an absolute nightmare. Wondering whether TennCare would take him back on was the scariest thing of my life.”

Luckily, with Denise’s persistence and TJC’s support, Jakob only went 11 days without coverage and was able to get back on TennCare in time to get his next life-saving infusion. Regarding Nicole’s help, she said, “I have always fought on my own. Having Nicole meant the world to me.” Although Jakob could have died if he had been uninsured for too long, Denise stayed strong throughout this whole process, focusing on doing everything she could for her son.

Denise is eager to share her story in hopes of inspiring legislative change so that no one else loses the coverage that they are entitled to. TJC helped Jakob get coverage, but it was extremely complicated and stressful for everyone involved. Denise worries about sick people who do not have someone to advocate for them, and she wants to do everything she can to make sure that people in similar situations know that they can reach out for help.

TJC is proud to recognize Denise as a 2019 Mother of the Year for the unending love she shows her son and the strength she continues to display despite the many obstacles she’s faced.

Photo Credit: Alex Kent

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