Louisa Davidson said she spent two years in the hospital after surviving a wreck, where she was hit by a drunk driver.
After that, she said nobody, even in Colorado where she lived at the time, would insure her.
"I had to go on indigent care with the mercy of a good state, a good blue state," Davidson said. "Anyway, it wasn't until the Affordable Care Act came around that I could get affordable health insurance again, because of all the pre-existing conditions. I wouldn't wish this on anybody ever again and we've got to keep fighting."
Davidson moved to Aiken three years ago, a place where she said she "has roots" and family. She stood downtown Saturday afternoon, joining a crowd rallying in support of the Affordable Care Act and holding a sign that read the health care law "saved my life."
Our Revolution South Carolina, a progressive grassroots group, and the Aiken County Democratic Party co-sponsored the rally held on Newberry Street.
Event organizer Pete LaBerge, a member of the statewide Our Revolution South Carolina and also connected to the Democratic Party, opened the rally, where speakers ranged from those who use the ACA, like Davidson, to local political leaders.
LaBerge has said it was important for the stories of those who used the ACA be heard. The rally comes amid a majority Republican Congress and President Donald Trump's efforts to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's 2010 law.
Democrats continue to support the ACA, referred to as Obamacare, which has had more than 200,000 sign-ups in South Carolina, according to LaBerge. He said in an interview ahead of the event, the parts of the law that are not working should be fixed, but he believes the ACA shouldn't be thrown out.
Deborah Guthrie told her story at the rally Saturday, sharing she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the time she was in seminary. She said she was a student, not making much money but also was "lucky enough" to live in Massachusetts at the time.
"They're a little bit ahead of us in the South, but I moved here this past summer because I want to work and I found a job but in order for me to keep working ... I need good health care," Guthrie said.
She described cancer as "ravishing the body" and leaving a person "comprised for a long time.
"So, I need good health care, and I need it to be consistent because I want to work and support myself," she said.
Aiken City Councilwoman Gail Diggs, director of outreach and community service at Rural Health Services in the Clyburn Center for Primary Care, said she's heard many stories.
As a supervisor for the Affordable Care Act program, Diggs said she heard many of them during the enrollment period and some people even shed tears, because they have worked on their jobs for 20 or 25 years but were "never able to afford a health plan and that changed."
"Nothing made them happier than to be able to go into a doctor's office and finally present a card that said, 'I'm covered,'" Diggs said. "If you don't know what that feels like, then you need to listen to some of them, because a lot of them couldn't because they have so many chronic conditions, high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and so, for once in their life, they were able to not put aside their health care needs anymore but go ahead and present that card and get the health care that they needed."
Diggs said the ACA made it possible for the Clyburn Center to locate in Aiken, and brought several medical services and staff. She said it also provided the grant to construct the new $5 million facility.
Those who use the ACA are receiving primary preventative care, Diggs said, so they won't have to end up in the emergency room with high costs.
"Because if they can come to us and pay $30 for a visit, they won't have to go the ER and pay $350 for that same, primary care visit," she said.
Diggs introduced fellow Aiken City Councilwoman Lessie Price and S.C. Rep. Bill Clyburn on Saturday. The Clyburn Center is located in Price's Council District and named after Clyburn.
Price reiterated that "health care is a right," and later said she represents a district with mixed income, many making $8 or less an hour who could not afford health care before the center.
She said many people, including elected officials, who have care can forget those who don't and need help.
"Not only affordable care but affordable housing and other needs," she said.
Clyburn echoed those sentiments, saying "we have to be our brother's keeper" and it's important to look out for others. He said the state has poor health care and poverty in many areas, including down the I-95 corridor, which he said is one of the poorest areas in the state.
"We are spending some funds, but not as nearly what we ought to do. I will tell you what's going to make a difference. What's going to make a difference is having involvement like you, showing that you do care," Clyburn said.
Diggs said the CEO from the center was unable to attend Saturday's rally due to an illness in the family but wanted to share a message: "The ACA is here to stay."
Those in attendance also chanted the phrase, many who were critical of U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., who has been an opponent of Obamacare, previously citing high health care costs and an adverse effect on jobs.
Wilson also has said he supports a repeal and replace plan.
Wilson's 2016 Democratic challenger, Arik Bjorn, spoke at Saturday's rally and also called health care a human right. Bjorn urged Gov. Henry McMaster to expand Medicaid and "save lives."
Thomas Dixon, 2016 Democratic, Green Party and Working Party senate candidate, also spoke.
Aiken County Democratic Party Chairman Harold Crawford said he "fully supports" the health care law.
"I don't want to see it go anywhere. I don't think you want to see it go anywhere," Crawford said.
He told those who attended it's important to support the local officials that spoke and want to protect the law and to "let those other folks on the other side of the aisle know that we are fully opposed to all of their efforts to do away with the health care we know have."