Ida Roberts lives in Kingsport with her husband Mitch and their three daughters, Amber, Sarai, and Elisabeth. Two of Ida’s daughters, Amber and Sarai, were born with severe disabilities, including mental retardation and autism. The oldest daughter, Amber, was born with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, which deprived Amber’s brain of oxygen. During Ida’s pregnancy with her second child, Sarai, there were concerns about the health and even the survival of the child. Sarai had a single umbilical artery, which greatly increases the risk of congenital and chromosomal defects, and Sarai was born with profound disabilities. Regardless of their health challenges, Ida’s profound love for her daughters is unabated.
Ida has courageously and persistently fought TennCare for years to ensure that her children are able to get the medical services that they desperately need. She has fought to get the medicines that their doctor has prescribed, to get the diapers and other equipment that Amber and Sarai need from suppliers, to find appropriate specialists for her children, and to keep their speech, occupational and physical therapies in place, which are imperative for Amber and Sarai’s development and growth. Ida has advocated relentlessly for her children to ensure they are given every opportunity to function well, develop, and reach their potential.
Amber, now age 16, has worked to develop basic communication skills. She loves going to school and is taking life skills courses there. She is learning to write her name and learning other daily living skills, such as how to brush her teeth and how to wash and dry dishes and clothes. Amber is also taking other steps to learn work skills she can use outside of her home. Three days a week she goes to Goodwill where she is learning how to fold, sort and place clothes in bins. Sometimes she also works at a grocery store where she is learning how to stock groceries. More than anything, Amber loves horses and enjoys looking at the horses in the pasture across from her home.
Sarai is now 11-years-old and is unable to read or write. Sarai is not able to talk except to sometimes say “momma.” When she is able to walk, Sarai sometimes goes from room to room with her hands out, looking up and smiling. “I think she plays with the angels,” says Ida. She loves music, especially nursery rhymes, and almost any kind of noise, including the sound of a lawnmower and squeaky toys. Sarai also really likes watching cars race.
For Ida, it is a full-time job ensuring that Amber and Sarai get the TennCare services they need. Ida has exhibited tireless effort and dedication to her children to ensure they are able to get the health care services they need to not only grow, but to also thrive. Ida says that “no child with or without a disability should have to go without needed medical services.” Ida adds that the “the challenge of fighting TennCare to get the medical services my children need and working to change the system are worth it so that another parent won’t have to fight quite as hard.” It is this mindset, and a deep commitment and love for her children, that drives Ida’s devoted desire to ensure her children get the health care they need.
Photo Credit: Mark Mosrie