The Caregiver: Healthcare, Wage Gap Issues Hit Close To Home For Sharon Burney


Sharon Burney holds back tears as she explains how her 35-year-old disabled daughter, Tamisha Ferguson, has had more than 70 surgeries in her life and is currently in the hospital.

Tamisha was born with one kidney and suffers from renal failure. She developed blood clots and seizures after starting dialysis and cannot drive to her dialysis appointments every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

“She’s strong, tenacious… and brings the other people presents to help brighten their day, all while she faces death,” Sharon says.

Sharon, 53, is a divorced single mother of two and the program assistant for the African-American Studies Department at the University of Florida.  She grew up in a primarily democratic home in Poughkeepsie, New York and lives in Gainesville.

Sharon’s second daughter, Yvonne Ferguson, 32, is an artist, and Sharon believes she is one of the most beautiful spirits you’ll ever meet.

“They’re my heroes, my daughters,” Sharon says.

But, her heroes need her help.

Sharon Burney with her two daughters, Yvonne, 32 (left) and 35-year-old Tamisha (right). (Karly Wallace/WUFT News)

Tamisha receives disability, but leans on her mother for emotional and financial support.

She requires a specialized diet of fresh or frozen food, which isn’t easy on $50 a month in food stamps.

Sharon doesn’t want to support a candidate who favors cutting food assistance programs.

“I can’t vote for you if you’re going to take my vote, and then vote against what my child needs to live,” she says.

With Florida’s rejection of federal funds to expand Medicaid 2015, Tamisha makes about $700-800 a month through Social Security, which barely covers copays for medicine, transportation to and from dialysis, rent and utilities.

Her mother also straddles the poverty line due to the slash in healthcare benefits, a frozen wage gap and the moral responsibility to pay for what Tamisha can’t afford.

Sharon needs helps and wants politicians to reinvest in the schools, protect the environment, expand Medicaid and bridge the income gap.

Raising and supporting a disabled daughter has framed her political views. She is leaning toward voting for Bill Nelson for Senate and Andrew Gillum for Governor on Tuesday.

“Policy-wise, I like that (Gillum) seems connected to the people on the ground,” Sharon says. “I don’t agree with necessarily everything policy-wise that he stands for; however, as far as both candidates, I agree more with (Gillum).”

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