The Frightening Health Scare Sasha Obama Survived As A Child

Barack Obama will long be remembered for the landmark achievement of passing the Affordable Care Act in 2010, a healthcare reform law commonly known as Obamacare. The former president's passion for healthcare is social and political, but it is also personal. Access to healthcare played a role in two difficult situations in his life, one involving his daughter, Sasha, and one involving his mother, Ann Dunham. The main difference was that Sasha had good coverage, and Dunham didn't.

Dunham died of uterine cancer in 1995, when she was switching jobs, and her insurance became an issue. "She wasn't thinking about coming to terms with her own mortality," Obama said in a 2007 campaign ad, the Chicago Tribune reported. Instead, Dunham was dealing with forms, paperwork, and bureaucracy as she tried to figure out if her medical expenses would be covered by the new insurance or if the cancer would be considered a pre-existing condition under the new terms.

The loss of his mother, whom he considers "the biggest influence on [his] life," inspired him to act. "Passing a health-care bill wouldn't bring my mom back ... But it would save somebody's mom, somewhere down the line. And that was worth fighting for," he wrote in his 2020 memoir, "A Promised Land." His convictions became even more solidified when he found himself on the opposite side of the situation in 2001 after his infant daughter was diagnosed with meningitis — a situation that could have ended very differently without healthcare.

Sasha Obama had meningitis at just a few months old

Sasha Obama was just a few months old when Barack and Michelle Obama had to rush her to the emergency room. "I will never forget. It was a day when, you know, one hour she was fine, she was normal, she was happy, doing everything I was used to her doing and the next hour she was crying inconsolably, and that just wasn't like her," the former first lady said on Al Sharpton's radio show in 2013, NBC News reported. Michelle tried feeding, soothing, and rocking, but nothing worked.

The Obamas called their pediatrician, who told them to seek immediate help. "As it turned out, she had meningitis," she explained. Meningitis, an infection that affects the membranes around the brain and spinal cord, can be serious and even cause death, according to Nationwide Children's Hospital. Seeking help promptly is imperative. Sasha was diagnosed after receiving a spinal tap, a moment Barack described as the hardest in his life.

The world seemed to stop, and nothing else around him mattered. "Your world narrows to this very small point," the former president said in a 2012 campaign video, as noted by Politico. Michelle and Barack know their privilege played a big role. "If we hadn't had insurance, and access to a pediatrician, and access to a hospital where we didn't have to worry about the cost of care ... there's no telling what the outcome would've been," Michelle said on Al Sharpton's radio show.

Michelle and Barack Obama cherish their time with their daughters

Barack Obama ran the world's most influential nation for eight years, but there is another title he considers just as — if not more — valuable. "As the father of two young daughters, I know that being a father is one of the most important jobs any man can have," he said in a 2010 Father's Day speech. When their father won the 2008 elections, Malia and Sasha Obama were just 10 and 7, meaning Barack and Michelle Obama were in the thick of parenting.

Any parent knows parenting is hard, but almost no one can imagine parenting while acting as first lady and president. "An episode of even mild disobedience or misbehavior from our adolescent daughters would set off a ripple of unsettling worry in me. It preyed upon my greatest fear, which was that life in the White House was messing our kids up," Michelle wrote in her 2022 book, "The Light We Carry." The Obamas still have a great bond with Malia and Sasha, proving their parenting skills were on point.

The sisters are now full-fledged adults living together in California but still make time to catch up with their parents. In October, the four met at an L.A. eatery, and, the previous year, Malia and Sasha even invited their folks to their place for some drinks. "We were like, 'OK, let's see what this is going to be like,'" Michelle said on "Today with Hoda and Jenna."