This is the number that I cannot get out of mind since the news broke on August 19 that Michael Robinson, a 33-year-old Black father, died as a result of being denied life-sustaining insulin used to treat his diabetes.
“Michael Robinson was arrested Friday on a warrant for unpaid child support, local KFVS reports. Robinson was a diabetic that needed insulin shots at least twice a day. He was taken to Pemiscot County Jail, where his family says he begged jailers for insulin but was denied until he became so weak he couldn’t hold his head up.
Robinson’s cousin, Brig Feltus, posted a comment from his sister saying that she believed Robinson was placed in solitary confinement to keep him quiet, because he was loudly saying he needed insulin.”
When Robinson was taken to the hospital on Sunday evening, it was too late. His blood sugar was said to be 2500. A normal blood sugar level is between about 70 and 140. My suspicion is that Robinson is a type 1 diabetic (meaning he is insulin dependent because his body made no insulin), and he died from a condition called Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), in which a body becomes toxic. Type I diabetes accounts for about 5-10% of diabetic cases. It is an autoimmune disease in which the body doesn’t produce its own insulin (a hormone needed to live), so insulin must be administered via insulin injections or an insulin pump. Just a few days without insulin can quickly kill a Type 1 diabetic.
Robinson’s death was preventable. And his crawl toward death was cruel.Avoiding child support isn’t a crime that should be punishable by death. #MichaelRobinson Click To Tweet
I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2006 in an emergency room. I was in DKA. I was not only experiencing
tall-tale signs of type 1 (extreme thirst and hunger, the chronic need to urinate, unexplained weight loss), but the increasingly high blood sugars my body was spiraling toward caused my vision to be very blurry. I was foggy, disoriented. My legs and feet felt like there were millions of ants crawling inside them. I was breathless, feeling like I was suffocating with no relief. I couldn’t drink enough water. My body couldn’t regulate its temperature, and I was shaking with cold despite having four warmed blankets heaped upon my frame. My head felt like it had been replaced with a bowling ball (just as Robinson, who “became so weak he couldn’t hold his head up). I was depressed, thirty pounds underweight (I looked like a concentration camp prisoner), and deathly ill.
Being in DKA was torture. If I hadn’t have gone to the ER on the day I did, I would have died, probably within the next day or two.
I know what it feels like to not have insulin, and it’s scary. Very, very scary.
I certainly agree that a parent who doesn’t pay child support should be held accountable. A child is an innocent party in a sometimes volatile situation, and a child has needs that should be met by the parents, including financial needs.
However, not paying child support isn’t a crime that should be punishable by death.
Given the current racial climate in our country and the multiple and unwarranted deaths of Black citizens at the hands of police, it’s fair for many of us to ask: Was denying Robinson’s need for life-sustaining insulin racially motivated? And, given the death of Sandra Bland while in police custody in Texas, and Ralkina Jones, a 37-year-old African American woman from Cleveland who passed after her jailers failed to give her the medicine she made clear she needed, should prisoner rights be added to the #BlackLivesMatter agenda?
Yes. A resounding yes.
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Rachel Garlinghouse is the author of “Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent’s Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children.” She mothers three children, all of whom were transracially and domestically adopted at birth. Rachel’s written more than 70 articles and has appeared in ESSENCE magazine, on The Daily Drum National Radio Show, and on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry. She blogs about all-things-adoption at www.whitesugarbrownsugar.com.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.