Tom Wilemon, firstname.lastname@example.org
4:45 p.m. CST November 10, 2014
Michele Fardan sat with her eyes closed in silent prayer clutching a piece of folded paper.
On the front of the paper was a picture of her daughter, Monika Laird. Printed inside was as much about her life that could be told in a memorial handout from a funeral. When the prayer ended, Fardan walked up to a microphone in front of the Tennessee Capitol on Monday and told how her daughter delayed getting medical care because she didn’t have insurance and died.
“I just want to speak for Monika because she is not here,” Fardan said.
She spoke at a rally for Medicaid expansion attended by about 60 people, several of them holding up big signs, some with clever rhymes such as “Close the Haslam Chasm.” There also was a book with 47,250 signatures asking Gov. Bill Haslam to take action on the health care coverage gap. She and three other Tennesseans presented the petition to a member of Haslam’s administration immediately after the rally.
Fardan kept clutching her piece of paper as tightly as a mother holds the hand of her first-born child.
“Monika didn’t deserve that,” she said. “She was a good girl. She was a decent citizen. Never in trouble or anything. She had plans, hopes.”
Laird was 37 years old when she died July 3. She was an aspiring screenwriter who wanted to make movies, her mother said. She was a woman without insurance who didn’t go to a doctor over a broken toe or want to go to a hospital when her legs hurt. After she became weak and lethargic, her mother made her go to a hospital. That same day Laird died from a pulmonary embolism.
“Thank you for your time,” Fardan said just before turning the microphone over to someone else.
“Thank you for your courage,” someone shouted back.
Fardan squeezed back tears after her speech, then yelled out in in anger before entering the Capitol.
“Close the gap!” she chanted alongside Larry Drain and Linda Drain — a husband and wife who must live apart so the wife can get TennCare — and David Adcox, a man with bones in his lower back that are disintegrating.
They were the ones who presented the petition to Don Johnson, with the governor’s Office of Constituent Services. Larry Drain, who has written 127 letters to Haslam about Medicaid expansion, said he asked for a meeting with the governor. He said Johnson was courteous but did not provide a response to that request.
Alexia Poe, director of communications for the governor, said Haslam is still working on a way to fill coverage gaps in Tennessee.
“He talked to Secretary (Sylvia Mathews) Burwell recently and talked to the president briefly about it Tuesday night,” Poe said. “Our challenge remains the same: getting to something that Washington will approve that meets the governor’s objectives for better health outcomes and the ability to address cost that he can also get approved by the General Assembly.”
Fardan said she appreciated Johnson taking the time to hear her share her daughter’s story.
Reach Tom Wilemon at 615-726-5961 and on Twitter @TomWilemon.