People with severe physical limitations, can be easily seen, such as those requiring wheel chairs. But many millions of people suffer from severe chronic illnesses that may not show on the outside but can be debilitating, such as cancer or diabetes.
This is the story of a woman who suffered such a debilitating chronic illness and what she did as a result to make a huge difference in the lives of many thousands of other people.
Jennifer was born on June 12th, 1957 in New Hyde Park, N.Y. to Alvin and Susan Britt Jaff. Her father ran an architectural woodwork design shop and her mother was a school teacher.
From childhood, Jennifer suffered severe stomach cramps so gut wrenching, she often missed school, spending long hours in bed, writhing in pain. She suffered as well from vomiting, diarrhea and internal bleeding. Not until she was 19 did doctors diagnose her Crohn’s disease, of which there is no cure.
“I decided I couldn’t stay in bed the rest of my life,” Jennifer later said. “I had to live.”
So despite the pain she endured, Jennifer graduated from the prestigious Georgetown University law school in 1984, and went on to an outstanding career as a trial lawyer and teacher.
But by 2005 Jennifer’s pain forced her to cut back her hours as a lawyer, and in her Farmington, Conn. home, she founded the nonprofit organization, Advocacy for Patients with Chronic Illness, Inc. (APCI)
For as Jennifer told the Hartford Courant in 2011, when government organizations and lawyers consider disabilities, “they’re not fully appreciating the experience of people with largely invisible disabilities, mostly chronic illnesses.”
APCI began helping up to 1500 people a year, suffering from Crohn’s, Cancer, Lupus and many other largely invisible diseases. Jennifer became their advocate offering guidance with health and disability insurance, government programs such as Social Security and helping to protect them against discrimination in education and the workplace.
And when the Obama Affordable Care Act was being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012, she co-wrote a “friend of the court” brief supporting the act, which was later confirmed by a 5 to 4 margin.
“In my estimation, this is the most important civil rights advance for people with chronic illnesses ever,” Jennifer told the Hartford Courant in a July 2012 article. “There can never be equality if we can’t get health insurance.”
This was not only an equality issue, but for those with no or inadequate health insurance, they risked losing their savings, their homes and everything else they own to overwhelming medical costs.
Jennifer played an important role in helping people to prevent such a catastrophe.
But shortly after the Obama Affordable Care Act was confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, on September 14th, 2012 at the age of 55, Jennifer passed away in her home from Crohn’s disease complications.
Jennifer is survived by her father and by her brother; Dr. Michael Jaff and by the thousands of people APCI helped. And she is survived by the thousands of people APCI plans to help.
For APCI continues to make a huge difference on behalf of those in need. If you need help, please contact APCI at http://advocacyforpatients.org/ for helping you would have touched Jennifer’s heart.