As a mother, I know that I have a responsibility to vote on Election Day for many reasons, and when I walk in that booth to cast my ballot, I will be thinking of not only my own children but other kids and their parents all across the country who deserve access to quality, affordable health care.
As a parent, my main responsibility is the health and safety of my daughter, Chase, and my son, Chance. I’m sure parents everywhere can relate to that. As nurturers and providers, we embrace our role to protect our loved ones but we also need to make sure that our laws and elected officials reflect our priorities and our values. And what can be more important than your health and the health of your family?
And as I personally continue to battle sickle cell disease, it is very clear that my own health is very much tied to me being able to take care of my children. That’s really what the health care fight and this election is all about—the well-being of our families.
My own health care story is very much about survival. I fight every day to stay alive and lead a healthy life so that I can see my children grow up and do something positive. For 28 years, I was misdiagnosed. I had spent countless nights in emergency rooms and hospital beds trying to figure out what was wrong with me, why pain persisted, and why it was so hard to execute basic tasks, let alone perform for an audience.
I was a young artist and living the dream with my girls, Left Eye and Chilli. I had the opportunity to travel the world, and we made history as one of the best-selling groups of all time. Sold-out shows, awards and recognition, and all the energy from the fans kept me going, but one thing I could not control was my health, and whether, as a Black woman, I would receive the health care treatment that I desperately needed.
When I think about what’s at stake on Election Day, I recall moments when I was at my most vulnerable. Though I was told I would never be able to have children because of sickle cell disease, I was blessed to give birth to my daughter, Chase. From first the moment I saw my precious baby girl, I knew that I had to come up with a plan to witness as much of her life as I could, despite my struggle with a chronic disease.
After giving birth to Chase, I experienced challenging post-birth complications that could have ended my life. On the first night of her life, I was instructed to breastfeed my daughter, which led to my heart almost stopping as a result of my sickle cell condition. My body shut down, and I fell into a coma. I was unconscious for three days and remained in intensive care until I was strong enough to regain mobility.
Surviving my health scares has not been easy. For years, I struggled with access to quality, affordable health care because I was either uninsured or underinsured. Either I did not have health insurance or the insurance I had did not cover my pre-existing condition, which made obtaining treatment even harder. I went through countless insurance plans that did not cover sickle cell disease. I was even dropped from insurance plans once they discovered I had a pre-existing condition. My health care bills continued to skyrocket, which caused stress while I was trying to recover. And it was a constant burden on my family.
Access to health care should not be exclusive to the few but accessible to us all. Working families across the country are struggling with access to quality, affordable health care, made even more tenuous with the constant threats to pre-existing conditions coverage for chronic illnesses like mine that might not be covered if Congress had succeeded in repealing the Affordable Care Act. Come Tuesday, health care voters must vote to protect access to critical treatment that can help save lives.
As a Health Care Voter co-chair, I am using my platform to have a conversation about this issue because it has impacted me and my family personally. As an artist, advocate and activist, I’m mobilizing in our communities because there’s so much at stake this November for families that are struggling to make ends meet.
On Tuesday, I’m supporting candidates who will protect our health care. I’m calling on you to have your voices heard and join me so that we can build a better and healthier future for our community.
Best known as a member of the legendary group TLC, Tionne (T-Boz) Watkins is a four-time Grammy Award-winning artist who has battled sickle cell disease for the past 48 years. She is also a co-chair of the Health Care Voter campaign.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.