No White Flags on Mother’s Day

When I was first sworn into the People’s House, I was single and didn’t have any children. I didn’t know then that my new responsibility would also lead to me meeting the love of my life, Brian, and us having three children.

My family keeps me grounded. They keep me focused on what’s really important. Tackling the biggest issues in our country is a little less daunting when I have three little faces at home reminding me why I’m here.

Moms have a sixth sense about their kids. When they’re sick or hurt, we feel their pain. When they reach a milestone, we share their joy. And when something threatens their potential, we want to fight back.

So as I spend this day with my family, I can’t help but smile thinking about another mom who is close to my heart: Gail Gleason.

Gail and I have a lot in common. We’re both Eastern Washington moms who one day realized our beautiful, remarkable children were going to face challenges in life that we didn’t expect.

Gail’s son, Steve, has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as ALS. You may know him as Steve Gleason the NFL great, but to Gail he’s her talented son who now has to face life with a terminal illness. She did what any mom would do — she became an advocate. She joined Steve and his wife in dedicating their time to champion members of the ALS community with Team Gleason. Their motto — No White Flags — is about inspiring and helping patients thrive.

Our paths crossed a few years ago, when red tape with Medicare brought Gail to Capitol Hill. Medicare was changing its policy, and it was going to have a devastating effect on people like her son.

Medicare was making it difficult for patients with degenerative diseases to access speech generation devices. Without this groundbreaking eye tracking technology, as their diseases progress, people lose their ability to speak and to communicate with their loved ones and doctors.

It can make anyone feel alone and helpless, when they’re anything but.

So together, Gail and I took on the Medicare bureaucracy. More than 200 of my House and Senate colleagues sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services asking the agency to reverse its decision. When that didn’t solve the problem, I introduced the Steve Gleason Act. In 2015, the bill became law — bringing back cutting-edge technology to the people who need it most.

Working with Team Gleason on this effort has been one of the most powerful, special experiences I’ve had in my time as a representative.

Now, our work continues.

This week I’m introducing the Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act to make sure Medicare keeps doing the right thing — permanently.

If there’s any takeaway I can share with you from my experience with Team Gleason, it’s that no matter your situation, moms are the same. When you raise your children, you want them to be defined by their potential, not by their limitations. You want them to have every opportunity.

More than anything, whether they have Down syndrome or ALS or other challenges, moms like me want our children to be seen as human beings with dignity, purpose, and a voice of their own.

This Mother’s Day, I re-dedicate myself to fighting for that voice.