(Interview w/ Courtney’s mother, 3/ 2010. Oil on canvas, 40 ins. x 30 ins.)
Only once did a family reject my request to paint a deceased love one's portrait. I think they thought I was a lousy painter. Or I was somehow exploiting their daughter's tragic death for my personal gain. I'm guessing the family thought both things. Most families trust me. I consider their faith a sacred trust. I will talk about what happened to their loved ones until I die.
Cindy, Courtney's mom, welcomed the opportunity to talk about her dead daughter. It's a crass-sounding sentence. But it's right. Why should we sugarcoat the death of a 23 year old, type 1 diabetic, her corpse found lying in her bed like a treasure lost forever at the bottom of a numbing arctic ocean.
Courtney cut back on her insulin, a life saving drug for type 1 diabetics born with this genetic disorder. Courtney was trying to save money by stretching her insulin. She took less than her prescribed dosage.
At 23, Courtney graduated from college and was out on her own supporting herself. Her job did not provide health benefits. Courtney was uninsured and paying full price for her insulin.
Young adults were not permitted to stay on their parents health insurance policies in very early 2010. A new law changed the rules for adult children later that year.
Courtney was my first death portrait. I paint a subject half in and half out of life when she dies prematurely because she could not access healthcare. I've told Courtney's tragic story countless times in talks. It never gets easier. Time does not make right something that is so very wrong.
Courtney's mom wrote. "Sadly, after all these years, I still struggle. I seem to miss Courtney more as time goes by, wondering where she would be in life now. Breaks my heart. My son struggles daily with his depression over his diabetes and Courtney’s death. He is 22 and has difficulty coping with life. It’s a full time job for me dealing with his physical and emotional health. The struggle is real. I continue to support the ACA, and I’m sure when my son turns 26 and is off his dad’s insurance, he will need it."
Artist's Note (3/2012)
At the time I interviewed Courtney’s mother for this portrait, adult children in school full-time or recently graduated were forced off their parents’ health insurance plans at 23. This happened to Courtney. Today under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, Courtney would have been able to stay on her parents’ health insurance plan until 26 years old.
(2010 Interview w/ Courtney’s mother)
French Major 2008 College Graduate, Self -Supporting, Uninsured, Age 23, Deceased
Courtney was a Type 1 diabetic.
She was also high jump champion. Her track and field achievements earned her a full scholarship to college.
Courtney lost her health insurance coverage after graduating from college because she was no longer eligible to stay on her parents’ plan.
After graduation, Courtney tried to buy health insurance on the individual market. This means that a single person knocks on the door of a large insurance company and asks them to sell a policy to an individual as opposed to a “group” of people. Employers form groups.
Courtney also tried unsuccessfully to get medical assistance from a public program.
Courtney could not afford to buy a health insurance insurance policy on the individual market. It was cheaper for her to pay for her insulin out of her own pocket than to pay the insurance premium offered to her by the insurance companies.
Courtney tried to save money by cutting back on her nighttime dosage of insulin. She developed flu-like symptoms and put herself to bed. She did not realize she was falling into a diabetic coma called ketoacidosis.
Courtney Leigh Huber died alone in her bed on January 5, 2010.
From the Facebook page for Courtney's Keepers (no longer active)
Courtney Huber was a former UMKC track and field standout. She had her entire life ahead of her, but on January 5th, 2010 Courtney Huber died. She was only 23 and had recently graduated college. Rather than getting kudos over her achievements, Courtney got something else, kicked off her parents’ insurance policy. Unlike many other recent college graduates Courtney wasn't thinking about her next exciting life challenge -- she was concentrating on how to survive life itself.
A four-time Mid-Continent Conference high jump champion and an eight time all-conference honoree during her career with the Kangaroos had found herself in a position she felt was too embarrassing to talk about. Courtney was secretly ashamed that she no longer had the ability to take care of herself and treat her diabetes. Courtney was made to think that it was time to live on her own -- fend for herself. However the one thing college didn't prepare her for was living without insurance.
Courtney hid her pain from the rest of the world as she carefully rationed out her supply of insulin while working as a waitress in a restaurant. She was determined to make a go on her own. Courtney was never one to be found wanting. She never said a word to family or friends. Only when it was too late did the people in her life find out.
Courtney did apply for subsidies but to no avail. She didn't fall into any indigent categories and was turned down time and time again. She came to her own conclusion that this was the way things were. Scared and alone yet determined to keep up the fight and improve her way of life, she marched on until tragedy struck. Something not even Courtney was prepared for. Weaning herself off of her nighttime regimen of Lantus resulted in acute ketoacidosis. She slipped into a coma never to wake up again. On January 5th, 2010 the world lost a bright and beautiful young woman, her life cut short because she didn't have insurance.