They're tiny. They just helped save Obamacare. And they're not done yet.

6-year-old Timmy Morrison knows where to get the best frozen yogurt and popcorn on Capitol Hill.

He's had time to do his research. For the past six weeks, he's been walking the halls of the Capitol and Senate office buildings with his parents, trying to convince his elected officials not to let hundreds of kids like him die.

Timmy Morrison, left, on a lobbying trip to D.C. Photo via Little Lobbyists/Facebook.


Timmy is one of around a dozen "Little Lobbyists" — kids with chronic, lifelong medical conditions who, along with their families, visited the offices of all 100 Senators, dropping off notes and asking for meetings. And they, ultimately, helped kill the Senate's latest push to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

In the days leading up to the vote, hundreds of activists, organizers, and ordinary citizens descended on D.C. for a final push against the bill.

The effort led by groups like ADAPT, a disability rights community that staged a series of sit-ins on Capitol Hill and at lawmakers' offices, grassroots Indivisible groups as well as traditional liberal political organs, including MoveOn and Our Revolution.

The "Little Lobbyists" were organized by Timmy's mother Michelle Morrison and friend Elena Hung, first-time activists like so many others, who felt like their children's voices were missing from the health care debate.

"It really is just a handful of families trying to figure out what we can do," Morrison says.

Morrison, a linguist at the University of Maryland, explains that she originally barely noticed her health plan's lifetime million-dollar maximum.

Six days after the Affordable Care Act's ban on denying coverage of pre-existing conditions on children's policies kicked in on Sept. 23, 2010, Timmy was born with Opitz G/BBB syndrome, a rare respiratory disorder that requires him to breathe through a tracheostomy and eat through a feeding tube.

By Christmas, the cost of Timmy's treatment had already surged past $1 million. By the time he was six months old, it had climbed to well over $2 million. The Morrisons still pay thousands of dollars in medical bills annually, but thanks to the ACA, bankruptcy appeared to be off the table.  

Timmy, undergoing treatment at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Photo via Little Lobbyists/Twitter.

With the law in jeopardy, that threat once again became real.

"It feels a lot to us like someone is rolling the dice with our children’s lives and not taking the time to figure out what the impacts are," Morrison explains.

With the right care, which Timmy currently gets at three hospitals in three states, the little lobbyist leads a normal kindergarten life.

In between chatting about robots and pirates, Timmy plays on a local soccer team, which, when treated properly, his condition allows.

Timmy Morrison. Photo via Little Lobbyists/Twitter.

Even with Morrison's employer-sponsored plan, Timmy is on a waiting list for Medicaid to help with his care. Several versions of the bill threatened deep cuts to Medicaid.

Hence the constant travel to D.C.

"I don’t think he realizes that it’s unusual for a kindergartner to be running around shaking hands with senators," Morrison says.

For Timmy, the trips to the Capitol quickly became routine. Occasionally, he rode in a stroller, since too much walking can aggravate his breathing. The parents brought crayons and special snacks for all the kids.

Photo via Little Lobbyists/Facebook.

Between meetings, Timmy spent time coloring in the outlines of the states whose senators' offices he's visited. Some of the older kids, 11 and 9, eventually started engaging staff members themselves, encouraging the younger ones to join in and speak up, Michelle says.

Meanwhile, for the adults, the joyful moments were tempered by frequent dead ends and creeping frustration.

The bipartisan group knew what it wanted any new bill to preserve: protections for pre-existing conditions, a ban on lifetime limits, and most critically, Medicaid funding.

The ever-shifting language of the proposed health care bill, however, often made it difficult to determine what arguments to present in meetings. "It’s like trying to catch soap," Morrison says.

Meeting with Senator Tammy Duckworth. Photo via Little Lobbyists/Twitter.

The Senate's recent successful "motion to proceed" vote left the group "heartbroken, terrified, furious."

"We must now watch as the Senate takes as little time as it possibly can to decide the fate of our children," Morrison and Hung wrote in a blog post published the day of the vote.

The parents and children pressed on. The group spent the next few days engaged in a final push, thanking GOP Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski for their no votes and lobbying hard for more.

On the afternoon of the final vote, they finally secured their first in-person meeting with a Republican senator — Jeff Flake of Arizona.

After tucking Timmy in on the night of Thursday, July 28, Morrison drove alone to D.C. to join Hung at what the pair expected would be a vigil.

Photo via Little Lobbyists/Twitter.

29 minutes after 1 a.m., it turned into a celebration of relief, when John McCain cast the decisive "no" vote on the bill.

The crowd outside the Capitol burst into cheers and tears of joy.

The surprise victory left Morrison feeling "pretty fabulous. And overwhelmed."

Their efforts had suffered dozens of setbacks in recent months. The House bill that was killed, then resurrected from the dead. The Senate bill, which was destroyed and reformed so many times. The crushing affirmative "motion to proceed" just two days earlier.

This, after all that, was sweet.

As Morrison and Hung wrote on their blog, dusting off and continuing to fight against the odds is nothing new for families like theirs.

"Our children have taught us well."

Corrections 8/1/2017 — The article incorrectly referred to Michelle Morrison as a linguistics professor at the University of Maryland. She is a linguist. Additionally, it stated that Timmy Morrison depended on Medicaid for part of his care. He is currently on a waiting list for the program. Other members of the Little Lobbyists do rely on Medicaid.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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