Making the most of the opportunities my grandparents created, my parents pushed themselves to even higher achievements, attending law school at night, working during the day to pay for tuition. When they became lawyers and built extraordinary careers, they never forgot where they came from. From my father’s career representing Ohio steelworkers dying from cancer due to corporate greed, to my mother’s pride in fighting for children as guardian ad litem and protecting them from the bench as Municipal Court Judge, they dedicated their careers to serving those who could not achieve justice on their own.
My achievements rest on all of the hard work of family members before me. My older brother, Chris, and I were born into a vastly different situation, but my parents made sure that we understood how fortunate we were and the value of our education. Moreover, my parents made sure we understood that serving others is the highest calling. As soon as we could read the news, Chris and I were encouraged to voice our opinions around the dinner table, jockeying with my parents’ ideas and learning how to argue, stand strong, and most importantly see each other’s point of view. Discussing politics with two lawyers who were from opposing political parties was not easy, but it showed me how important listening and compromise are, in every circumstance.
I first witnessed the harsh realities of the healthcare and health insurance systems when I was 14 years old. My brother Chris sustained a traumatic brain injury from a car accident that left him a quadriplegic. Despite all of the advantages my family had, we were no match for the insurance companies. We were forced to fight every step of the way to get the care my brother needed and deserved. To provide Chris with the quality of life he deserved, my parents paid upwards of $20,000 a month in out-of-pocket medical expenses. Fortunately, my father’s legal practice allowed us to meet this heavy financial burden and my mother gave up her career to care for Chris full time.
When I was 16 years old, another tragedy struck my family when my dad died from a heart attack. Without my father, my mom struggled to meet the ever-growing financial burden of medical bills, legal fees, and taxes. From the outside it looked like we could weather the storm, but it was by the sheer will and determination of my mother that we got through those years. She leveraged everything to make sure that Chris was taken care of. I followed my mom’s lead and did what I could to help. When we were struggling to pay for full time nursing at night, I moved into my brother’s bedroom and became his nurse. When we were struggling to find the money to keep us afloat, I sold the savings bonds that my father left me for college. When my mom tried to refuse my help, I reminded her of an Arko motto: “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” Through hard work and good luck, we were able to give Chris the best care while he was still with us.