State justice center honored Nashville woman as “Mother of the Year”

David Smith
Staff Writer

Margaret Danko, a dedicated full-time caregiver in Nashville, is being honored as a 2017 Mother of the Year by the Tennessee Justice Center (TJC). The award is given in recognition of Margaret’s extraordinary love for her daughter, and her dedication in advocating for her daughter’s health care needs. TJC, a non-profit law firm serving Tennessee families, has honored Mothers of the Year on Mother’s Day for 17 years.

Margaret has been a tireless caregiver and support for her daughter and best friend, Janis (Jay), for over 40 years. Through myriad health problems, Margaret has always been by Jay’s side. The two are practically inseparable. Jay has Down syndrome and lived through her first heart surgery at just two years old. She has also survived Leukemia.

Despite the health challenges they have faced, Margaret looks for the good in all things. “Jay has given me a purpose,” Margaret stated with a smile on her face. “Jay has taught me kindness, patience and perseverance, and that no matter how tough it gets, it is going to get better.”

Last year, Margaret and Jay moved from Texas to Tennessee to be close to Jay’s specialist at Vanderbilt. Jay has had Medicaid health insurance to meet her complex needs her entire life. Unfortunately, when   she moved to Tennessee, her coverage did not travel with her, and Margaret and Jay struggled to navigate the red tape of applying for Tennessee’s Medicaid program (TennCare).

Margaret recounted, “Medicaid has been there for Jay her entire life. This is the same girl. I don’t know how this happened.” Margaret did not give up, and she contacted the Tennessee Justice Center for help. TJC helped them cut through the red tape and win back coverage.

Congress has just given Margaret a new worry by tacking massive Medicaid cuts onto the bill that will repeal Obamacare. She worries what will happen to Jay and the children of other mothers who face similar challenges.

Margaret continues to be a full-time caregiver for Jay, which wouldn’t have been possible without the supports provided by Medicaid. Jay is 43 years old, and Margaret is 78. When asked about their times together, they recount weekends at Opryland, listening to Jazz in New York clubs, and trips to Vegas to see Terry Fodder, a ventriloquist from America’s Got Talent. Margaret looked at Jay and said “We’ve gotten to see and do a lot. We’ve had some good times haven’t we Jay?” Jay looks up with a big smile and replies, “Oh yea!”

TJC is honored to recognize Margaret for her tireless efforts as a caregiver and advocate to ensure her daughter’s health care needs are met.