In 2007, Margaret Rivers’ daughter, Tracey, began experiencing severe headaches and neck pain. Several visits to doctors without a diagnosis and months of chronic pain made it difficult for her to work. She lost her job as an administrative assistant—and the health care that came along with it. Eventually she was diagnosed with occipital nerve syndrome, a chronic pain disorder that results in debilitating migraines. But that was only the beginning of Tracey’s struggles with the health care industry.
Margaret learned firsthand that health care in the United States needed to change, so she began volunteering for an Illinois senator running for President named Barack Obama, who spoke passionately about his own mother's struggle with cancer. “At that point, we were left on our own to pay for medical care,” Margaret says. “I was opposed to the war and agreed with Obama on all the issues, but health care was the motivating factor because of the way he spoke about the need for everyone to have access to quality treatment."
Unfortunately, Tracey’s health issues worsened, and months of pain turned into years. Because temporary health insurance was so expensive, Margaret and her husband had to dip into their retirement savings to supplement Tracey's house payments, medicine, and doctor's visits.
While the financial situation was challenging, Margaret speaks about the emotional difficulties of watching her daughter battle with chronic pain. “It was horrible. She slept all the time because that was her only way to escape the pain. Not everyone can provide financial support, so we were lucky in that sense. We kept her out of the deep water, but it felt like she was drowning. That was hard to watch as a parent.”
Eventually, about two years after the initial pain started, Tracey was opted into Medicare and successfully diagnosed, allowing her to undergo a number of surgeries to correct the issue. Having quality health insurance removed the financial and emotional stress for her and her family, and she was able to focus on recovery.
She is still getting better, and both Margaret and Tracey are volunteering with the campaign because they want to protect the progress made with the Affordable Care Act. Margaret hosts monthly phone banks, while Tracey prefers to help out at the office and enter data for her neighborhood team. When they speak with voters, they say that because of the President, far fewer people will have to endure what they went through.
“She’s a survivor, but there are people who have not survived without good health care,” Margaret says. “So we want to fight for them and be a voice for those people, because we've walked the walk. Both us believe in the importance of access to good health care for everyone.”
Join Margaret and Tracey to help protect the progress we’ve made since 2009 by volunteering for the campaign in your community.