Jody is a self-employed hair stylist. At times, she has worked multiple jobs to provide for her family. Because she is self-employed, she does not have access to an employer health plan. She and her family are enrolled in the state’s Medicaid insurance program (TennCare), which provides them peace-of-mind and access to care. She is the mother of three sons, two teenagers and one twenty-year-old. They live with an array of interesting pets, including peacocks, lizards, and a scorpion.
Last year, her husband battled numerous life-threating health conditions, including stage 3 colon cancer, brain cancer, stomach cancer, blood clots in his lungs, and seizures. Jody stayed strong in caring for her husband as he underwent chemotherapy, and Jody untiringly drove him thousands of miles back and forth to his doctors’ appointments, all while working several jobs to support her family.
Thankfully TennCare covered most of his treatment and medical costs. Jody was a tireless caregiver and advocate. When her husband needed home health care, his insurance plan provided a list of home health agencies, but none of the agencies actually took his coverage. Jody didn’t give up, and continued to advocate until he finally got the services he needed. Unfortunately, Jody’s husband passed away last fall after a long and hard medical battle.
Jody’s grace and selflessness has shown through not only in how she well took care of her husband, but also in her dedication to taking care of her children. Soon after her husband passed away, Jody’s oldest son, Caleb, was diagnosed with poststreptococcal arthritis. He woke up and his knee was swollen 3-4x its original size. All of his joints were swollen, sometimes to the point that he couldn’t even walk. Although her son will fully recover, the process has taken a long time, and the doctor said that the medical episodes could recur. He hasn’t been able to go to school or work for almost five months because of his medical condition. Jody has faithfully cared for him and taken him to appointments. With Medicaid coverage, Caleb is expected to recover and get back to his life, school, and work.
Congress has just given Jody a new worry by tacking massive Medicaid cuts onto the bill that will repeal Obamacare. She worries what will happen to Caleb and the children of other mothers who face similar challenges.
Jody’s patience and constant commitment to her family shine through, whether she is driving to appointments, on the phone for hours, gathering huge amounts of documentation. Her strength is admirable as she has fought her family’s numerous health care battles with courage and resilience.
Jody even manages to stay calm with her kids keeping their pet scorpion in the house, but she does let them have the pleasure of caring for it!
For her unwavering dedication to her family, TJC is honored to name Jody Harwell as a 2017 “Mother of the Year.”