Charlene, St. Louis

Charlene is 55 years old and has been on Medicaid her entire life. As a baby, she was diagnosed with dwarfism and another unnamed disability that has affected her brain, breathing, and speech. “The doctor told my mom I was a fighter,” she said. “I’ve always been that way.”

Last Christmas, Charlene was sent to the hospital when she was found unconscious in her apartment. She had overheated and her diaphragm had collapsed. At the hospital, she was diagnosed with pneumonia, hypoxia, vitamin deficiency, and lactic acid build up in her muscles. The doctors told her having one of those was enough to kill her, but as a fighter, she said, “I survived all four at one time.” Medicaid covered all of her treatment, rehabilitation, and trachea equipment. Without Medicaid, Charlene would not be able to afford lifesaving prescription medications and her oxygen tank and mask. In the last four years, Charlene has improved in her ability to speak, which she says has helped her to advocate for herself and others. She hopes to go back to school and become a community advocate working to improve access to care for disabled individuals.