Sangita Patel is a single mother of three teenage boys: Ashutosh, Ravi, and Akshay. Ravi and Akshay both have epilepsy, and Akshay also has cerebral palsy. Although he is 14 years old, his cerebral palsy has stalled much of his development.
Akshay loves to be outside. His mother and two brothers enjoy spending days walking in the park and sitting in the sunshine with Akshay. They also love to hear Akshay sing, as he has a passion for music. However, these days outside are rare gifts for the Patel family, as Sangita often must work extra hours to make ends meet.
On July 11, 2013, Sangita received notice that her children would lose all health insurance benefits in two weeks. Because of her children’s epilepsy and cerebral palsy, Sangita knew she needed to fight to keep her children on TennCare. “I am a single mom with children with special needs, and I try to work as much as I can,” she told TJC. “It was too hard for me to take care of my children and work without having any nursing services from TennCare.”
Sangita struggled for months, trying to reinstate her children’s TennCare. One day, she met with a counselor from Vanderbilt who suggested that she contact the Tennessee Justice Center. She called TJC and spoke with a client advocate who was able to help her keep her children insured. TennCare had incorrectly believed that Sangita received insurance from her employer. TJC helped Sangita prove that she was not receiving any insurance and that she was eligible for TennCare coverage. “Without TJC all I heard was ‘no.’ We got our coverage back and I am so thankful and appreciative,” she said.
Thankfully, Sangita’s children got their coverage back just in time. In December 2013 Akshay began having hundreds of seizures a day. They went to the hospital and the doctors tried various medications to control the seizures, but they couldn’t stop it. The only option left was brain surgery, which wouldn’t have been possible without insurance. Sangita said, “Thanks to TJC getting us TennCare, he is here. If they hadn’t helped me stay on TennCare, he wouldn’t be alive right now.”
Akshay wasn’t able to walk after therapy, but he continues to improve and his seizures are less frequent. Sangita is in awe of her son’s strength, noting that she wouldn’t have been able to survive what he has been through.
Sangita continues to work hard to provide for her sons. TJC is proud to honor Sangita as a Mother of the Year for her dedication to her sons and her ongoing, unrelenting efforts to ensure that her sons have the opportunity to thrive.
Photography by Liz Todaro.