Virginia man with diabetes dies months before wedding after taking cheaper insulin to save money for big day
Josh Wilkerson, 26, switched to a cheaper brand of insulin after aging out of his stepfather's health insurance plan, and it would prove to be fatal.
A Virginia man who was suffering from Type-1 diabetes tragically passed away just a few months before his wedding because he was unable to afford insulin due to its sky-high prices.
Josh Wilkerson, 26, of Leesburg, was covered under his stepfather's private health insurance until he was 18, which meant that the $1,200-a-month insulin he needed hadn't proved to be a problem, according to the New York Post.
But after aging out, affording it became a problem, especially because his job as a dog kennel supervisor paid him just $16.50 an hour.
He initially started out by rationing the pricey prescription brand he had been using all his life before a doctor recommended that he take ReliOn, an over-the-counter brand that one can buy at Walmart for just $25, which was 1/10th of the price.
It was a no-brainer because his fiancée, Rose Walters, 27, was also suffering from Type-1 Diabetes, had started using ReliOn herself last Winter, and had suffered no detrimental effects.
"We figured: Hey, it’s $25. We can do that, and we’ll just work with it and try to do the best we can," said Walters of their decision.
The couple had also switched to an over-the-counter brand for their blood-glucose meters to keep medical prices within their budget and so they could save up for a rustic barn house wedding in October.
Erin Wilson-Weaver, Wilkerson's mom, had already lost her father to Type-1 Diabetes when he was just 38 and had become worried for her son because this was not the first time insurance complications had seen him resort to desperate measures to keep up his medical treatment.
"He couldn’t afford the maintenance or supplies for his insulin pump, so he had to make the switch back to syringe," she revealed, adding that after her son's healthcare changed, "his health and life really began its downward spiral."
When she sent him a message on Facebook with an article about a man who had died after rationing his insulin, the message that came back read, "Don't worry, mom."
But Wilson-Weaver was right to worry. ReliOn, which is known as "human insulin," reportedly requires more time to become effective than the "analogue" insulin Wilkerson had previously been taking and has been known to cause hypoglycemia or low blood glucose levels amongst users.
The 26-year-old had been experiencing stomach problems, mood swings, and high blood sugar after he started taking ReliOn, and this past June, while he was staying overnight at the kennel for the week because his boss was away, his symptoms proved fatal.
On his second night there, Wilkerson complained of stomach problems to Walters over a FaceTime call and promised to take insulin before sleeping. But the next morning, when she called him, he did not respond. Worried, she went to the kennel and found her fiance unconscious on the floor.
He was rushed to the hospital and found to have suffered multiple strokes and was in a diabetic coma. His blood sugar level was 17 times that of a normal person. Despite the medical professionals' best efforts, he died five days later.
Following his death, Walters took to Facebook to ask for donations to the Juvenile Diabetes Practical Cure Fund (JDPCF) in honor of the 26-year-old.
"Living with T1D is probably one of the hardest things to live with," she wrote. "What makes it a million times worst is not being able to afford the supplies you need to keep yourself alive. So I’m sick of managing it and I’m ready for a cure. Help me raise money to help find just that."