After aging out of his step-father’s insurance plan, 27-year-old Josh Wilkerson struggled to afford the insulin he needed.
According to People, both Wilkerson and his fiancée, Rose Walters, lived with Type 1 diabetes. And they both struggled to afford the monthly doses of insulin they would need in order to live healthy lives.
After aging off of his father’s insurance, Wilkerson’s monthly insulin costs skyrocketed to $1,200 a month.
That’s when Wilkerson, who made just $16.50 an hour working at a dog kennel and was trying to save for their future wedding, asked his doctor for a cheaper option.
His physician told him about ReliOn, “a lower-grade insulin” that is both available and affordable. In an interview with The Washington Post, Walters said they both decided to give it a try:
“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.”
As The Washington Post reports, ReliOn is known as “human insulin.” It was built off the genetically-altered “analogue” insulin doctors often prescribe to their patients with diabetes.
However, the difference between human insulin and analogue insulin is that the former can take up to four hours to go into effect, while the latter only takes roughly 20 minutes.
It’s a fact that worried Walters:
“The fact that it takes so long to kick in? It scared me a little bit.”
As Allison Bailey, U.S. advocacy manager for T1International, a nonprofit organization for people with Type 1 diabetes, said of ReliOn: “There is a lot of room for error.”
As Walters explained, her body reacted better to the more affordable insulin than Wilkerson’s did. She told The Post that after switching to ReliOn, Wilkerson began experiencing stomach issues and became increasingly moody.
All signs that his blood sugar was getting too high:
“Something in him, you could just tell, was different. I would tell him, ‘Check your blood sugar,’ and he would check it, and it would be high.”
Then in June, Wilkerson agreed to watch over the dog kennel where he worked for a week while his boss was on vacation. It was the perfect opportunity to make some extra money.
It was his second night at the kennel that things to a turn for the worst. According to Walters, during a conversation they were having on FaceTime, Wilkerson admitted that his stomach was bothering him.
He told Walters that he would take more of his insulin and said goodnight. The next morning, after not hearing from him for more than 12 hours, Walters rushed to the kennel to check on him.
She found her fiancé unconscious on the floor. He went into a diabetic coma after suffering several strokes:
“I just remember smacking him on the face, saying, ‘Babe, wake up. You have to wake up.'”
Sadly, Wilkerson passed away five days later.
Now, Wilkerson’s mom is dedicating her free time to advocating for young people with diabetes who can’t afford the cost of prescription insulin. According to The Washington Post, Wilkerson’s grandfather passed away from Type 1 diabetes complications as well:
“It’s pretty much a death sentence. They have no health insurance or good jobs to afford what they need, so they’re left with the pittance that is left.”
As for Walters, she moved back to her hometown, where she was able to find a job with better insurance. She then posed the question:
“It’s very hard. How many more young Type 1 diabetes patients have to die before something finally changes?”