Valerie left this in our inbox yesterday, before we knew what today’s decision would be:
In January of 2010, I had landed a job as an assistant teacher for a preschool daycare program at my mom’s church. It wasn’t full-time, but it was sufficient, and I knew I’d enjoy playing with the kids, reading books to them and playing house and all. When I got there, though, I was told of a young boy in my class with leukemia.
The teacher explained to me that his parents’ insurance had kicked him off of their plan due to his disease, and as a result, he was getting worse. She informed me of what I would have to prepare for, and who to call if such-and-such situation occurred. It was all very daunting: when I was in kindergarten, one of my classmates passed away due to leukemia, so this was hauntingly familiar and incredibly frightening to me.
When I first saw the boy, I felt my heart twist. He was a very small boy for his age, with beautiful eyes and fine dark hair that had been growing back since the insurance company stopped paying for his chemotherapy. There was a nasogastric tube inserted into his nose, from the medical care that his parents were working so hard to give him out of their own pockets.
I began following the Health Care Debate very closely. I read up on everything. I studied and memorized lines and clauses from the bill itself, fact checked everything that I heard… It was when I began discovering my passion for politics. The injustices done to this little boy, who wasn’t even four years old at the time… I couldn’t stand for that. That should never have been allowed to happen.
What truly broke my heart was when, after a month of working there, the first words he ever said to me were, “I hate myself.” His voice was so soft. Hearing that was like having someone kick a brick wall into my chest. I couldn’t believe a three year old boy could ever say that. He went on to say his “lee-me-ah”, as he called it, made his parents so sad and made them cry. He began to cry and I hugged him, trying not to cry as well, trying to be strong for him… It was torture watching his cancer progress. I was there for him when he vomitted, I sat and read to him when he was so tired he could hardly move, when he couldn’t go out to recess with his friends…
Then, spring break week came around. I was on a skiing trip with my family and my boyfriend, but instead of being out in the snow, I was crying in front of the TV in our little apartment space, jumping up and down with excitement. It was Tuesday, March 23rd, and I had just watched President Barack Obama sign the Affordable Care Act. The second I heard the words, “It is law,” I just couldn’t contain myself. All I could think about was that boy with leukemia, and all the other children like him… Finally, they would see justice. They’d have a chance to live.
The insurance company decided to re-insure the boy soon after the law had passed, and he went back on chemotherapy. The last week of school, he arrived without the nasogastric tube, all smiles, and ran around with his friends a little bit. He has had his fourth and fifth birthdays because of Obamacare.
Mr. President, thank you so much. Thank you so very, VERY much. Words cannot describe how much I love you for all of the good that you have done. A little boy is alive because of you.
You are the first person I ever voted for. I will forever be proud of that.
What does today mean to you?