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Felicia Willems's picture

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This post originally appeared on the Go Ask Mom blog.

Obama Health Care.JPEG-05826The week before Christmas, I had the incredible opportunity of being invited to the White House to speak with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama about the Affordable Care Act and share how it's impacted my life and my son's life.

I found out the morning of the meeting that it was very uncommon to have them both in a meeting, and it was even more rare to have that meeting be in the Oval Office!

While I waited for the meeting with the president to begin, I got to know the seven other moms who had been invited to the meeting. Right away, it became clear why we were all there: Each of us had been touched in some way by the Affordable Care Act and, as a result, were making efforts to advocate on behalf of the law.

The Affordable Care Act has made a major difference for my family. When my son, Ethan, was born in 2006 we found out within just a few weeks that he needed chemotherapy to fight off a rare benign tumor. I had to quit working to care for him and, as a result, we lost our health insurance. We were very fortunate that he qualified for Medicaid which enabled us to get him the life-saving care that he needed.

But even after we got Ethan through his illness, my husband and I were still incredibly worried that he would have to struggle to get insurance for the rest of his life because of his pre-existing condition. We are so grateful that the Affordable Care Act has put that worry to rest.

Because of that, and also because we've experienced the importance of the Medicaid program, I am working hard to get the word out about the benefits of the new law to other families through my work with MomsRising.

My story is one of thousands of stories that have been sent to MomsRising from members across the country, and I was honored to not only be able to share my own story, but also to be able to represent those members in the Oval Office. It is truly humbling to know that, from the very top, moms are looked to for leadership on these important issues.

Outside the Oval Office, I lined up with all of the other mothers, waiting nervously for the meeting to begin. The door to the Oval Office suddenly swung open and I heard a familiar voice exclaim, "Hi moms! Come on in." I looked up to see the president himself standing there with the first lady, welcoming the eight of us into the Oval Office all decorated for Christmas.

In the room, it was just Mr. and Mrs. Obama, senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, a few White House staffers, and us moms. The president and first lady welcomed us and thanked us for taking the time to come and meet with them. Then Mrs. Obama shared a personal story of her own about when one of her daughters fell ill as a baby and how grateful she was to have access to quality, affordable healthcare at the time.

The president and first lady both emphasized how important they felt it was for people to share their stories and expressed how grateful they were that we'd come in person to share ours.

"Why don't we start with you, Felicia, and we'll go around the circle from there."

Mr. and Mrs. Obama sat and listened intently as each one of us shared our personal healthcare stories.

Mary Todd Glascock, a mom from Virginia Beach, Va., was able to keep her 21-year-old son on her insurance plan despite being diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer two years ago.

Nicole Duritz, a mom from Alexandria, Va., shared her story about her twins being born prematurely at 31 weeks. Janise Kyle from Arlington, Va., explained how she'd adopted her nephew after her sister died, and had just helped him sign up for insurance as a young adult.

We spoke for about 30 minutes and then the president explained that the media would come in so he and the first lady could make a statement. You can hear what they had to say by clicking here.

What you didn't see in that video is, despite being told that no questions would be taken at that time, a reporter yelled out after their statements, "Mrs. Obama, why have you decided to join the president's efforts to promote the healthcare law?"

To which she emphatically responded, "Because I'm a mom."

I couldn't have summed it up better myself.

Felicia Willems, Raleigh mom of one, is a long-time MomsRising volunteer who now works full-time on the group's healthcare team. Willems is recruiting MomsRising members to join a Wellness Wonder Team, now with more than 3,000 members. Click here to learn more about MomsRising's online resources. They also are collecting healthcare stories. To share your story, email healthbeat@momsrising.org.


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