For her determination in advocating for the needs of her children and so many others, the Tennessee Justice Center honors Tina Claxton.
Tina Claxton describes herself as ” just a mom who loves her kids.” She is a working single mother of two: a 27-year-old son named Jordan and a 24-year-old daughter named Abby, who has a fatal health condition. Abby was diagnosed at 10 months with Hurler Syndrome and her brother Jordan was the bone marrow donor that saved her life. She has had multiple orthopedic surgeries and various other health issues. Jordan is so wonderful to his sister. Tina is aware that it isn’t easy living in the shadows of a sibling whose health takes precedence a great deal of the time and is so grateful for Jordan. Tina raised them both to be independent individuals and she has accomplished that. She is a religious person and believes that God gave her Jordan first because He knew Abby would need him and that they are both truly miracles. Two years ago, Abby was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension and diastolic heart failure which was the result of the chemotherapy and radiation that was required during her bone marrow transplant. In a short time, she went from being very independent to becoming more dependent. This however has not changed her smile, personality or how she brings so much joy into everyone’s life. She loves music and her reality TV shows. She stays in contact with her friends and keeps herself up to date on what is going on in everyone’s life. She has gone through all the phases that anyone who has been given a fatal diagnosis would. She lives in acceptance now.
Tina is a true advocate. When asked about her hobby, she said “my hobby is that I try to help people with their issues with insurance or schools that do not follow Individualized Education Programs.” She loves to educate people on their ability to say “no!”, whether it is because they don’t feel comfortable with their doctor or because insurance isn’t covering their needs. She supports others so that they can know they have the right to second opinions and other types of treatment. Tina’s patient advocacy started the day Vanderbilt sent Abby home and “told me she was going to die and just to love her ’til she did.” It was only a matter of time before Tina found the treatment Abby needed in Minneapolis, MN. Tina wants everyone to have the best healthcare and treatments they possibly can have. “No” isn’t an option for her.
Tina calls TJC her legal heroes. When Tina couldn’t get Abby’s back surgery approved, she called TJC and a client advocate stepped in and got it covered. Recently, Tina had an issue she brought to TJC for one of Abby’s new medications that the insurance company wouldn’t approve—the cost was approximately $1,000. There was a court date scheduled and when TJC came into the picture, the insurance company changed their minds. A victory without a fight!
Tina has also been a fierce advocate for change in the TJC network. Last fall, during the Medicaid block grant proposal hearings, Tina stood up in front of hundreds of people and numerous news cameras to tell the story of Abby’s condition and to fight for the healthcare rights of all Tennesseans. She moved the whole audience to tears. It is our great honor to recognize Tina as a 2020 Mother of the Year for being “just a mom” and so much more.
When asked to talk about herself Tina says, “I find it difficult to talk about myself because I am just a mother. I chose to have children and take care of them no matter what. That’s what I continue to do. I have learned an enormous amount about patient advocacy over the past 25 years. First you have to educate yourself and then sometimes others of her condition. Then you learn to stand up to insurance companies, doctors and schools. Raising any child takes a village. Abby’s village is extremely large!! I am grateful to each and every one who has helped her to get where she is today. Abby is always so appreciative of everything I do for her. She is the sweetest. Every day she will ask me how my friends are doing. She tells me every day how proud she is of me.”