Deanna Dawkins

Mother, employee of NC Public schools

In 2017, Deanna learned she was pregnant and was approved for Medicaid. After losing her still-born son, she lost her health coverage. Once employed with the school system, she acquired health coverage and the ability to see a doctor again—only to receive a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. After undergoing 8 months of intensive chemotherapy, she died in 2020.

Mother, Daughter, Friend

Adrienne couldn’t get mental health treatment for her postpartum depression because her “family planning Medicaid” had run out 2 months after the birth of her 4th child. Without health insurance she was unable to treat her resulting substance use disorder and died from an accidental overdose.

Daughter, Sister, Mother

Jessica died on May 12, 2018 at the age of 32. Jessica suffered from mental illness and substance use disorder, but because she was in the Medicaid coverage gap, she was unable to afford the care she needed to support her mental health and recovery.

Uncle, son, and brother

Jeff died in 2017 while working as a cook in a nursing home. Jeff suffered months of pain, but delayed preventative care due to his lack of health insurance. Jeff was diagnosed in the ER with stage 4 kidney cancer and passed away shortly after.

Wife, Mother and Early Childhood Teacher

Brenda Pernell, affectionately called “Ms. Brenda” by her students, dedicated her life to caring for children. For over 30 years she nurtured, loved, and taught children in the early childhood centers where she worked. Ms. Brenda’s work serving infants and toddlers, who will someday become North Carolina’s future leaders, was a labor of love. Ms. Brenda did the work she felt called to do, even though working in this field often comes with low pay and few benefits. In addition to the children she cared for in the early childhood setting, Ms. Brenda, was a proud mother of three children.

On April 25, 2019, Ms. Brenda’s life was cut short when she passed away after a stroke. Without health insurance, she had been unable to get care for her heart and blood pressure. Ms. Brenda’s family and her community lost a devoted mother, loving wife, and a hardworking teacher. Ms. Brenda and her family paid a price that no one should have to pay.


Shana worked for the state of North Carolina in a job she loved until her many health issues forced her to accept long-term State disability.She applied for Social Security Disability but was denied, as was her appeal. When her three years of State disability benefits ended, she had no means of income and no medical insurance. There were times she had no food, electricity or heat. The little house she was so proud to purchase was foreclosed and sold.

Shana’s application for Medicaid was initially denied but eventually approved for an interim period as long as her Social Security Disability appeal was pending. With her interim coverage she was prescribed a plethora of pain medications with no plan for reduction. On July 3, 2017, the age of 46, she went to bed with plans to attend a family July 4th cook-out the following day. Unfortunately she took more pain medication than her diseased heart could handle. I found her in bed the next day, finally at peace after seven years of fighting a system that offered little to no help.

Wife, Mother, and Early Childhood Teacher

Cathy was a mother of three children and wife. She was an early childhood educator for 30 years and she died from a heart attack on May 28, 2016. She was passionate about providing quality care for children. Mrs. Cathy didn’t have health insurance and as a result she was unable to manage heart disease. She had a college degree in early childhood education. She left behind three children and a husband.

Sister, Aunt, Great-Aunt, Great-Great Aunt, Cousin

Mrs. Annie Ruth Gerald Wilson was born during segregation in 1942. Mrs. Wilson’s life was adversely impacted by racism, poverty, and educational disparities. She was an uninsured domestic worker when she suffered a massive heart attack in late 2004—6 years prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Had she had access to health insurance and preventative health care, perhaps she would not have suffered such an adverse health outcome. While in the ICU, Mrs. Wilson lapsed into a coma from which she never recovered. She passed away on December 29, 2004. Her family is still burdened by medical debt, over 15 years after her death.

Mother, Hospital Chaplain, Emergency Assistance Coordinator, and former Healthcare Lawyer

Barbara was going back to school at age 46 to become a hospital chaplain when cancer spread unchecked for 5 months during a period of being uninsured, 3 years before the passage of the Affordable Care Act. By 2013, her family of 4 could no longer afford the exorbitant costs for a cancer recurrence blood test and a $40,000 annual insurance bill. Barbara died at age 53 from stage IV breast cancer.

Mother and retired Kmart employee.

Carrol could not afford her medication, so she cut back on what was recommended by all of her doctors and she missed many appointments because the co-pay was too high. Carrol died in the coverage gap, unable to access the care she needed.