Friday, February 26, 2010

Casey Johnson

The recent death and announcement of the cause of Casey Johnson's passing this week really hit some nerves with me. According to published reports, she died as a result of untreated Diabetes and an overdose of the over the counter cold medication "Nyquil." As I look at the facts it angers me. This woman was the heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune and chose, yes I said she chose, to not take care of herself. She could and should have had the best medical care, but all of the medical care in the world could not save her from herself. If she didn't do her part, the disease would most certainly do it's job. In my mind's eye and in the heart of a woman who was made a widow by this beast, she participated in her own demise.

This reminds me of a conversation that Richard and I had very early in our relationship. It was August after we began dating in May. I had just turned 20 and he would be 21 in October. The only knowledge I had of diabetes was my mother's first cousin who lost her husband, a diabetic and alcoholic. She sat by his bedside for 3.5 years while it slowly killed him in a diabetic coma. He drank until he passed out and never, ever woke up again. I had no idea of the beast inside Richard's body, until he called me one morning and said they were admitting him to the University of Virginia at Charlottesville because his "sugar was out of whack." He spent a week there and when he came home he handed me a giant, black binder. He said "Read this tonight and we will talk tomorrow. I am okay and I love you."

The binder contained everything that the medical community knew, at that time, about Diabetes. Highlighted portions had regard to Richard's illness and everything that was highlighted appeared to be the worst that it could be. I did not sleep that night. The words, blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, amputations and coma ran through my mind. It was that night that I knew in my heart that I loved Richard. I had told him in a teenager mentality that I loved him. But looking at what was staring me in the face showed me my heart. I walked the floor with one question wrestling in my very soul. "Can I do this?"

The next morning I went to his apartment early and awoke him from his slumber. He was a 20 year old college student and it was the weekend before school started back on Monday for him. There were liquor bottles and passed out friends littering the apartment. Pizza boxes and beer cans. Before I had always taken these things in stride. After my night of reading and soul searching, I saw things in a different light.

The first question I asked Richard was "What was your sugar level when they admitted you?" He blinked his eyes and knew that I had read the material. "680" he replied. I knew enough that a blood sugar reading of 800 is comatose. I also knew that 80 to 120 was normal. The next question I asked was "What did the doctor's say?" He looked at the floor and began to cry. He said "If I don't take care of myself, I will be dead in a year." As he looked up at me, that was the first time I ever saw fear in his eyes. It was then that I gave him the only ultimatum I ever gave. I had practiced and practiced it in the car on the drive over. I needed to say this without tears, but with resolve. I was so scared because if he would not do as I asked, everything would end. "You need to tell me what you want. I love you. I am invested. But, if you are not going to do what you need to do in order to be on this Earth, I will walk away. I can break my own heart right now and it will be easier than watching this kill you. Either participate in life with me, or participate in dying alone." With that I turned and walked from the room.

I heard the shower start and I woke the other fellas. Bleary eyed and hungover, I asked them to leave. I started to pick up the mess and put the dishes in the dishwasher. When he came downstairs, still wet from the shower, he still had tears in his eyes. With a dishtowel in my hand, I asked "What are you going to do?" He said, "I want to be with you." With those words, I made the educated decision to love this man and fight this disease. I was not blindsided, there was no diagnosis in a room with a doctor. There was just he and I in the livingroom of a tiny townhouse. Two kids who decided to face the world together.

Why would Casey Johnson choose not to fight for her life? Why would she ignore medical advice? Why would she choose to leave this world? According to reports, she lay dead for four days before she was found. Where were her parents with their money and influence? I cannot understand any ones actions in this entire debacle. But, the responsibility lies squarely on Casey Johnson's shoulders. She was not ignorant of the consequences of letting her blood sugar over take her. She was not ignorant of the fact that "Nyquil" is not safe for diabetics. According to the information involved, she in fact abused it. The sad part of this is that she was a young woman with a life that most of us could only dream of living. She had everything but love for herself and a love of life.

The doctors and forensic pathologists can state what they believe to be the cause of death. For my part, she died of self loathing. She participated in her death as surely as if she had taken a gun and ended her life. Diabetes is not a life choice, it's not a life style. You will learn to live with it like a lion in a cage, or it will end you. But in the end, it is your choice. Fight or die.

1 comment:

  1. I think you've nailed it with the self-loathing theory regarding Casey Johnson. Self loathing tends to lead people to do things that are bad for them. Combine that with a type 1 diagnosis and the outcome is never going to be pretty.