Faces of Fearless: A customer service rep fights for a young man’s independence

Published February 19, 2019

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Caleb’s story

Recovering from a traumatic accident takes a team - doctors, nurses, physical therapists, family and friends. Faced with the new reality of living with a serious disability, some patients need another member on that team: an advocate who can help navigate a complex healthcare system. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBS Tennessee)’s Michelle Lawrence is one of those advocates. She’s a customer service expert, dedicated to helping members like Caleb Wilson cut through those complexities. When Caleb faced one of the most serious barriers to a full recovery, Michelle put her knowledge to work, and didn’t take no for an answer.

An accident, and another setback

Caleb Wilson’s life changed in an instant. One moment, he was a high school senior, enjoying the attention of college baseball team recruiters. Then a tragic accident put him in a wheelchair, his future uncertain. After weeks in the hospital, many surgeries and physical therapy, Caleb was learning to live with his new reality.  But a follow up surgery set him back. Suddenly, he found he wouldn’t be able to live independently without a specialty medical device that cost as much as a month’s rent. Living without it would mean Caleb needed help with every day activities. More importantly to Caleb, it meant he wouldn’t be able to live like other students in the college dorms.

That’s when BCBS Tennessee’s Michelle Lawrence got the call. 

A tenacious customer service specialist takes the case

Michelle works in BCBS Tennessee’s customer service call center. Her specialty is finding solutions for problems that can’t easily be resolved in a single phone call. She spoke to Caleb’s father Rodney Wilson about their inability to afford the equipment he needed. Rodney says he’d tried everything to find a better option but ran into roadblocks every time.

“The very first time that Rodney and I spoke he said to me, ‘No one has been able to help and make a difference for Caleb. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I just don’t have any hope that you will be able to either.’ My response, says Michelle, was ‘just give me a chance.’” 

Michelle spent weeks tracking down another a vendor for the device. She worked with BCBS Tennessee teams to make sure it would be covered. And she called Caleb and his father nearly every day with an update on her progress. “If this was my child,” she says, “there is nothing that I wouldn't do to solve this.” 

A new start

Her hard work paid off. Michelle called Caleb with the good news: “You're going to get a shipment in a week." She says it was the proudest moment of her life. 
When they finally met in person, Caleb told her how her hard work helps him every day, and how much he appreciated being seen as more than just a member or a medical claim. “You're not a number,” Michelle told him. “You're a person.”

Caleb Wilson graduated from college in 2018 and soon began working as a recruiter for a technology company. He and his girlfriend found an apartment together in Nashville.   

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.