In April of 2004, Angela Williams was in a horrific car accident. The car flipped four times in the early, dark morning hours, ejecting her from the passenger side. She was thrown 100 feet away into a tree. She fell from the branches into a graveyard at a church.
Upon arriving on the scene, first responders couldn’t find her in the dark. Once the sun began to rise, they found her, but she wasn’t alone. A poisonous snake was beside Angela’s limp, beaten and disassembled body. Once the snake was no longer a threat, the paramedics began to retrieve Angela’s lifeless body, laying some of her organs on the gurney next to her.
The medical team did not think Angela would survive. The impact from the wreck and ejection severely damaged her face and body, resulting in a broken pelvis and being split from her legs to her navel. Angela died three times while being rushed to the hospital. A group of doctors who met her at the hospital were willing to do whatever it took to keep her alive, but were puzzled about where to start.
Nearly twenty years later, Angela is still alive. However, her fight to be here has been a struggle for her and all those around her. After the accident, Angela was in a coma for five days. She stayed in the ICU for over a month and remained in the ward for around two weeks. However, she was forced to leave because she continuously contracted infections in the hospital. Instead of returning to her home with her four boys, they all had to move in with her mother, Regina Curry, Ph.D.
Regina made drastic changes at her home to take in her daughter. Regina had to have ADA-accessible doors and a hospital bed in Angela’s new room. Regina’s husband transformed their den into the kids’ new bedroom, building two bunk beds. Regina was now responsible for taking care of her daughter and four sons.
Angela was bedridden. After the accident, she underwent twenty-four surgeries, including the reconstruction of her vagina, bowels, and other internal organs, five knee surgeries, rods and pins in her back and legs, and many others that brought her a great deal of pain and left her immobile. Angela had to rely on her mother, other family members, and her boys to do everything for her, from sitting in bed to using the bathroom.
The new responsibilities were trying for Regina at the time. She was working on her doctorate degree in social work at Jackson State University. Her only employment was working as an assistant at the school. On top of that, her husband, a military officer, was leaving for a fifteen-month assignment at the end of April. Once he left, it was all on her to ensure her daughter’s care and watch after the kids while trying to stay in school.
Complicating matters, Angela had Medicaid which covered most of her medical expenses, but it had many limitations on long-term care and devices she needed. Medicaid also didn’t provide her with a home caregiver. So, Regina and the family had to pay more than $2,000 a month to have someone watch and care for Angela when she was not home. Medicaid did not provide her with transportation to her frequent doctor appointments, which left the family paying for ambulances to transport Angela.
A home health program eventually approved Angela, which took some weight off Regina’s shoulders but took several months to get in. During this time, Regina had to juggle everything on her own. Regina and her family still had to contribute their time and finances, even with the program. The program only provided a nurse to come a few hours a day. Regina and other family members care for her at night. The program offered limited supplies. Regina and her family had to pay for whatever Angela needed or ran out of.
Angela’s accident significantly impacted her mother’s life and the four sons. Instead of being free to be kids, they had to be caregivers to their mother, which limited their childhood. The boys could be off playing but had to be there when their mother called for them. For Angela’s sons to have their mother bedridden at 31 years old was an unmeasurable shock to them. It forced them to grow up and take on the responsibility of caring for their mother, who couldn’t provide for herself.
Although everyone around her felt the accident’s aftermath, Angela carried the most considerable burden. Her health, ability to provide for her boys, and financial situation weighed heavily on her. Without Medicare, Angela saw several difficulties in getting the care she needed. She remembers countless times when doctors told her there were things they could do to improve her condition, but Medicaid didn’t cover it.
Angela was disappointed by the healthcare system in so many ways. Medicaid only offering six weeks of physical therapy took away her ability to walk with a walker earlier in her recovery. She could not get an AFO, a device to put in her shoe to hold her foot up and prevent it from dragging. Despite needing it after the accident to help her move around, she recently got it after going to a different doctor who gave it to her for no charge.
Medicaid didn’t cover automatic wheelchairs. So, she had to use a manual wheelchair that her boys had to push her around in because she was too weak to do it alone. Not getting the things she needed set her path to recovery back. One of her nurses even remarked that if she had gotten the stuff she needed initially, she would be back working and able to move independently.
Although Angela wanted to get better for herself, she tried to get better to return to work and take care of her boys. Even while restricted to the bed, her sons were her priority – often cooking for them using an electric skillet beside her bed whenever no one was there.
It was hard for Angela not to be able to provide for her sons. The monthly disability checks were only $800 and a mere $50 in food stamps. She was stretched thin with numerous medical expenses, prescriptions, and trying to provide for her four kids. She often had to decide whether to get her medications or food for the family. A choice that no one should have to make.
The stresses weighed heavily on her mental health. After waking up from the coma, Angela initially questioned why they didn’t let her die. Being bedridden made Angela feel like a burden to everyone around her. She thought she was unfairly disrupting their lives since she couldn’t do anything for herself. Her condition put her in a dark place, so much so that she had to check herself into the hospital because she did not want to be alive.
As necessary as mental health is, Medicaid did not assist Angela or her kids. Unfortunately, in 2008, five years after her accident, Angela’s son ZaQuan Bush committed suicide at age 12. Regina strongly believes all the built-up stress and anger from their mom’s accident and the inability to get mental health care on top of school issues led him to take his own life sadly.
One accident changed the course of Angela’s entire life and those around her because she couldn’t get the adequate care she needed due to her lack of insurance. Twenty years later, she finds it challenging to move around, still living in pain, and requiring surgeries that Medicaid will not cover. Her pain and condition have reached the point where Angela has considered moving out of state to get the care she needs to live her best life.
Dealing with the same pain and daily difficulties, Angela feels she has no choice, especially after seeing other people who had similar accidents in different places receiving care that improved their condition. Angela’s and Regina’s ask is simple: make healthcare in Mississippi better, so people can work to make their lives as normal as possible without sacrificing everything else.