On June 6th, 2019 I got a call from my mom telling me she was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital with my sister, Jada. I knew she had been sick for a few days, but I didn’t know to what extent. I live about 3 hours away in North Carolina, so as soon as I could, I hit the road to Newport News, VA. When I saw Jada, I learned she was admitted to the hospital with DKA and an infected foot ulcer. In the 24 years I had known my sister, I never saw her look as helpless as she did sitting in that hospital room.
Once her blood sugar got under control and surgery was done to remove the dead tissue from the foot infection, Jada was transferred to another unit. It was in this new room that I was able to speak with my sister one-on-one about her health. Jada had been dealing with type 1 diabetes since she was 7 years old. Until then, she never experienced complications. Then again, she also always had insurance until that point. She told me that she last took her insulin 3 weeks before she was admitted to the hospital. She said she could not afford the $300 price tag. I asked her why she didn’t say anything to me about it. She told me she just did not feel comfortable asking anyone for that amount of money. I left my sister in the hospital after staying with her for 2 more days. She was in the hospital for another 5 days before going home with an IV and orders for a wound care nurse to see her 3 times a week. My sister was home for 8 days before she died.
At 24 years old, Jada was supposed to have more time. She was supposed to be the maid of honor at her best friend’s wedding. She was supposed to lead the drama ministry at church. She was supposed to give me a niece or nephew a few years down the line. But having no insurance and plenty of bills to pay, my sister was forced to make a choice that would take all of that away from her. The second she had to decide between paying her bills or purchasing life-saving medicine was when the countdown on my sister’s life began. Can you imagine losing your life over $300?
Sadly, my sister is not the only person in this country who has lost their life because they could not afford the one medication she needed to survive. Just yesterday I saw a news story about a 21-year-old in Minnesotan who died after rationing his insulin. I have heard stories of people travelling to Mexico to smuggle cheap insulin back across the border. We live in a country where healthcare is considered a privilege instead of a basic human right. People are resorting to extreme measures to make their medications last, and it is costing them their lives. It should be criminal for pharmaceutical companies to price gouge the way that they do.
Stories like my sister’s are becoming too commonplace. No one chooses to have type 1 diabetes, but type 1 diabetics have to choose whether or not they can manage the disease due to the high costs associated with it. I look forward to the day where making a profit takes a back seat to doing no harm. More states should take steps to cap the cost of insulin for those with and without insurance. There also needs to be more legislation limiting the power that pharmaceutical companies have to quiet potential competition.
Our government has the ability to mute Big Pharma, but so many congressional pockets are lined with money from these companies. Until our government takes the action necessary to ensure citizens don’t have to make the decisions my sister did, I am going to share her story to anyone and everyone who will listen. I cannot have my sister back, but maybe I can help someone else hold on to theirs.
Visit Jazmine's gofundme page for Jada's Funeral here.