In January of 2017, Illinois' 13th congressional district representative Rodney Davis voted to send my one-year-old daughter to an early grave.
In the moments following his vote, he celebrated with a beer and a photo op in the White House Rose Garden, posed with Donald Trump.
My daughter has type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disorder that causes sugar to build up in her bloodstream. She needs multiple injections of insulin every day for the rest of her life, or she will die.
She was five months old at diagnosis. Unable to provide her own management care, my wife and I became our daughter's artificial pancreas. Each day, we must track every last carbohydrate she eats or drinks, calculate how much insulin to dose for her injections, and monitor her blood sugar levels for life-threatening highs and life-threatening lows.
The threat type 1 diabetes poses is ever-present, it does not take off weekends or holidays. Should my daughter's blood sugar plummet to unsafe levels (something that can occur, without warning, in a matter of minutes) and I not be there to catch it, she will fall into a coma, and possibly die. Should her blood sugar rise to unsafe levels and go untreated (because, for instance, she has no access to insulin), her blood will fill with acid, which will cause her to fall into a coma, and possibly die.
Not that I would ever wish type 1 diabetes on anyone, but if only Rodney Davis had a child with type 1 diabetes for just a week, he could begin to understand the unrelenting nature of providing 24/7 care to avoid a catastrophic outcome.
I wish he knew the struggle that my wife and I contend with every day, knowing that this terrible burden will someday be our daughter's alone to bear. I wish Rodney Davis knew the exhausting struggle of staying awake night after night to make sure his daughter's blood sugar doesn't fall so low that she dies in her sleep. I wish he knew the raw emotion of grieving type 1 parents and family in our online support groups, those who have lost their loved ones, despite doing everything right and fighting a tireless fight. I wish Rodney Davis knew the cold terror I feel in the pit of my stomach imagining such a possibility.
I wish he knew the aching melancholy I feel worrying about my daughter's future, about all of the factors I cannot control, knowing how challenging life can be without an expensive, life-threatening illness that this country's healthcare system seems determined to punish her for having.
I wish Rodney Davis knew that managing the disease was only a fraction of the battle. I wish he knew how exhausting and infuriating it was to deal with the insurance companies, the hospitals, the medical distributors, the grinding bureaucracy and paperwork and blood and sweat and treasure that goes into acquiring the medical supplies that my daughter needs to survive. And I wish he knew how it felt to mount that battle quarter after quarter, year after year, the call center's on-hold music burned into his subconscious.
I wish Rodney Davis understood the struggle of balancing those responsibilities while trying not to let it impact the quality of life for his family, his marriage, or the childhoods of his children, both those with the disease, and those without, who have had to make adjustments to accommodate their sibling's illness.
Then, I would like Rodney Davis to know what it feels like to watch a group of highly-paid politicians, who themselves have taxpayer-funded healthcare, cynically vote to undo the laws protecting my daughter, in favor of the profits of their political donors, the health coverage insurers, who until the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 had the ability to deny coverage to people with "pre-existing conditions" such as diabetes, cancer, asthma, and heart disease.
Rodney Davis and his congressional Republicans want to go back that barbaric status quo. They desperately want to tell my daughter to pull her disease up by the bootstraps, and go bankrupt in the process. It was their singular rally cry in the wake of Trump's election. They have been fighting for it tooth and nail since 2010, and their efforts were thwarted only by the late Senator John McCain's historic and courageous thumbs down vote on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
But make no mistake, they will try again. And Rodney, if elected, will be there to help them every step of the way.
Now, you may not know me, you may not like me, you may not care whether my daughter lives or dies. This is America, and that is your right.
But even if you don't care about my family, there is an overwhelming probability that someone you do care about suffers from a pre-existing condition, or someday will. If you cast a vote for Rodney Davis on November 6th, you are voting for a man who puts the profits of his political donors ahead of your loved one's life.
In previous elections, Rodney Davis marketed himself as a moderate conservative. But time has proven that he is not a moderate conservative. He is a puppet of the current Republican party; a rubber stamp for Donald Trump and his far-right agenda.
Over 70% of Americans are in favor of keeping the protections for pre-existing conditions in the Affordable Care Act, support that reaches far across partisan lines. But Rodney Davis wouldn't know. He hasn't held a single town hall since Trump's election. His staff regularly deletes comments from his Facebook page, silencing his constituents so that his actions cannot be publicly called into question.
Even the embattled, clearly partisan California congressman Devin Nunes allows for a democratic exchange of ideas on his official social media. (I checked before writing this article.) Clearly, Rodney Davis is afraid to engage in a serious dialogue with his critics, likely because he knows he cannot defend against their charges without revealing the underlying cruelty of his voting record.
On a personal level, Rodney Davis may be an okay guy. I'm confident that if we sat down for dinner, we would find areas of common ground. But as a politician, Rodney Davis is pure, unadulterated garbage. And the 13th congressional district of Illinois, which includes Champaign-Urbana, deserves better from the sole representative of its interests. A hell of a lot better.
By spinelessly following along with the GOP's crusade to destroy the Affordable Care Act, Rodney Davis has failed every single sick person in this country — past, present, and future.
This is personal to me.
Some day, it may be personal to you, too.
I encourage you to vote on November 6th. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Ryan Jackson