Updated: Aug 8, 2019
On the morning of July 4th, Jazmine Baldwin had little cause to celebrate.
Her family had buried her sister, Jada Louis, less than two weeks ago, and she was still trying to process why her sister had to die because she couldn’t afford a lifesaving medication. In a telephone interview conducted on a day when others were heading to parades and cookouts, Baldwin felt it was important to share the story of how her sister died.
“I want as many people to know about it as humanly possible,” Baldwin said.
Jada Renee Louis, who had type 1 diabetes, died on June 22nd, 2019 at the age of 24, roughly a week after a stay in a Virginia hospital for treatment for diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and a foot ulcer. It was there that Baldwin first learned her sister had been skipping her insulin doses because of the cost, a fact that Louis had been reluctant to tell the doctors. Baldwin then asked her sister why she didn’t ask family for help.
“She said she didn’t feel comfortable asking for that much money from anybody,” Baldwin said. “I asked her how much it was, and she said $300.”
Baldwin said they would find the money. Louis was discharged from the hospital in mid-June after a long stay, and Baldwin, who lives in North Carolina, checked in on her sister remotely.
“She seemed to be in good spirits. She said she had all the medical supplies that she would need, including medication,” Baldwin said. “I really don’t know what happened over the course of that week.”
Louis’s family has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help pay the bills for the funeral.
While the funeral services and burial cost are roughly $9,000, the campaign is asking for $7,000 to take into account offline donations from family, Baldwin said.
“We haven’t even touched the medical bills,” Baldwin said. “Those haven’t come through yet.”
“She was always happy, always smiling.”
It is difficult to find a photo of Jada Louis where she isn’t smiling. Even those rare photos taken of her without a smile, where Louis is making a silly face, are inclined to make one smile.
That is just how Louis was, said Rebekah Harris, one of her lifelong friends. Louis, who was well over six feet tall, was described by family and friends as very outgoing and kind, someone who could fill up the room with her friendly presence.
“She was always happy, always smiling, would be there for you, give you the shirt off her back, really kind, really down to earth, just, like, really goofy,” Harris said.
Harris and Louis first met when both were in third grade at McIntosh Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia. They bonded instantly, and Harris says Louis felt like her twin.
Louis had a flare for the dramatic arts, and was frequently a performer in school performances throughout elementary and middle school. She eventually went to a magnet program for the arts at a local high school. After graduation, Louis worked for Walmart and at a call center before landing a job most recently at a movie theater in neighboring Hampton, Virginia.
Louis was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of seven, a few years before she met Harris. Throughout h