In the spring of 2014, Emily and her husband Chris joyously learned that they were expecting their first child. Around the same time, Chris changed jobs. His new job did not offer employee insurance. Emily applied for TennCare to make sure she got the pregnancy care she needed until they figured out another coverage option.
While waiting to hear about their health coverage, Emily was diagnosed with preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication that can be fatal to both mother and baby. Preeclampsia causes high blood pressure and can lead to seizures, as well as liver and kidney failure. Eventually it can even affect brain and heart functions. The condition also affects the baby’s growth and cuts off his blood and nutrient supply.
On July 16th, Beckett was born premature, weighing 4 lbs 1 oz. The family still had not heard from TennCare about their insurance. Emily and Beckett had to stay in the hospital for twelve days. Emily’s condition developed into eclampsia and lasted for another two months while she continued taking medication for seizures and blood pressure. The bills for her hospital stay and ongoing medical complications added up, burdening a young family trying to make a life for themselves.
Still without word from TennCare, Emily called TJC for help. We guided Emily through a successful appeal process. “Y’all were able to give me the strength and courage to pursue this, because I would have given up,” she said. “I didn’t know what was out there, I didn’t know there was someone who could help us. And once I found that out I just knew that we had to keep going and pursuing it.”
Chris switched back to his old job, enabling the family to have his employee insurance once again. Months after her application, the family finally received coverage for the medical expenses incurred while they were waiting on TennCare.
At Beckett’s six-month checkup he was in 4th percentile in weight and 5th percentile in height. He is still small and has eye problems, as well as developmental delays due to his premature birth. Emily has continued to advocate for her son, contacting a program about healthier beginnings for babies and getting him evaluated for physical and occupational therapies. She says, “I want to get him to where he is not any different from any other baby, because to me he’s not. I can’t wait to see the kind of person he is going to be. After everything that he has been through, he’s a fighter. I’m grateful TJC was there to fight with us.”
Emily continues, “The most important reason we fought for our son is because he is too small to— he had no voice.” Emily not only wanted to advocate for her son, but for other children in his situation. She was featured on the cover of the Tennessean in order to bring light to the health care situation in Tennessee and make a positive change for other families dealing with the same issues.
Beckett is now eight months old and just said his first word: “Momma.” TJC is honored to call Emily a Mother of the Year for her tireless advocacy and passionate dedication to her son.
Photography credit: Mark Mosrie