When Tabitha was 6 years old, she was diagnosed with leukemia. She fought and beat the cancer, but doctors told her that she may not be able to have children because of the treatment she went through. When she found out she was pregnant, she was overjoyed. Describing this moment, she said, “I started crying and I told God thank you for having my child.” She gave birth to a son, Dale, and the next year gave birth to her daughter, Ashley.
Ashley, now 31, has a seizure disorder and cognitive disabilities. She needs constant supervision, so Tabitha stays at home with her to be her caregiver. Dale also lives with them, and his two children, Tabitha’s grandchildren, visit on the weekends.
Because Tabitha puts Ashley’s needs before her own and stays at home with her rather than working, she is not able to afford health insurance for herself. She is one of 300,000 people in Tennessee who fall into the “coverage gap,” meaning she doesn’t have access to health coverage because of the legislature’s failure to expand Medicaid. Tabitha has diabetes and high blood pressure, but she can only get care at a neighborhood clinic because she can’t afford to go to the doctor. Instead, she just focuses on making sure that Ashley gets the care that she needs.
Tabitha is not just a great advocate for Ashley—she is an advocate for Tennesseans like herself who cannot get health coverage. Working with TJC in the fight for Medicaid expansion, Tabitha has shared her story with the media with the hope of helping other people understand what people in the coverage gap go through. When asked why she chose to speak out, Tabitha said, “I decided to share my story because everybody out there needs care. Folks like me need insurance to go to the doctor, but we just can’t afford it.” She knows that personal stories can really change people’s perceptions of an issue, and she wants to share her story to advocate for people like her who do not have access to the healthcare that they need.
For the selfless love that she shows her daughter and her commitment to advocate for people in the coverage gap, TJC is happy to honor Tabitha as one of our 2019 Mothers of the Year.