Why did the bookmobile driver die?

 

LETTER: An investigation is requested.

 

 

The editor:

I have high blood pressure. It runs in my family. But so does kindness, compassion and a commitment to public service. We are a family of educators who teach, train and help people reach their potential. However, kidney disease does not run in my family.

On June 13, my brother Julian Shabazz went to a dialysis center for a routine kidney treatment and never returned. I’m struggling to understand how a relatively healthy, 52 year-old man just dies from “natural causes,” according to the death certificate. What is natural about a brain hemorrhage? 

In 2017, I suffered a brain aneurysm around the same time his kidney’s began to fail. I was sitting in a faculty meeting about to have lunch with the other teachers. When I stood up, I suddenly felt unusually light-headed. 

I drove myself to my doctor’s office. After throwing up in the bathroom, they called the ambulance and took me to the hospital. I survived because the people around me took action and cared about me. Likewise, my brother was also at a medical facility when whatever happened to him took place.

He was not sick nor was anything wrong. If he was sick or felt strange, he should have been taken to the hospital immediately. 

His cell phone was on him at the time. If the people around him didn’t call the ambulance, why didn’t he call 911 if he wasn’t able to drive himself like I did?  In short, I do not believe his passing was an accident. At best it was negligence and that’s also unacceptable. Perhaps this was just a coincidence. But, according to author and political commentator Malcolm Nance, “A coincidence takes a lot of planning.”

Julian was a public servant and proud Clintonian. 

He once served on the city’s planning commission and was recognized for his service by former publisher and Representative Donnie Wilder. After spending time teaching at Benedict College in Columbia and later working for Richland County Recreation Commission, he came back to Clinton to be closer to his children. He worked hard to help the Laurens County Library secure a new bookmobile. 

People in every nook and cranny of Laurens County knew him and looked forward to him spreading literacy throughout the county. Not to mention, he was an author and the recognized authority on Black professional wrestlers. We also coauthored the only biography on comedian Rudy Ray Moore, who was recently immortalized by Eddie Murphy in the 2019 Netflix film Dolemite Is My Name.

Someone who dedicated their life to the people of Clinton and Laurens County deserved better care. 

Julian never liked the idea of being a patient because it was a hindrance to his lifestyle. Anyone with a passion for public service will understand. He would not be satisfied just sitting at home. He loved his job as the bookmobile librarian. He loved interacting with the public and making people smile. When he was not at the library, he traveled the country as a motivational speaker. He was a positive person and always believed he would make a full recovery. Even if the people who were supposed to be aiding in his recovery did not. 

As an educator, I’ve had former students who didn’t like me and made no secret about it. But teaching everyone was (and still is) my job. Almost all of the students who initially did not like me, later thanked me. After leaving the safe environment of school and going into the real world, they found out that I was preparing them for the world. I had to take abuse from many students but I remained focused on their future as I knew it would pay off in the end. People in the health care industry also have to work with disgruntled individuals. 

After hearing the historical stories of the Tuskegee Experiment up to the more recent publication of Unequal Treatment in 2002, I have a natural apprehension towards doctors and the health care industry. 

Several studies suggest that health care providers are more likely to hold negative stereotypes towards African American patients. (see Understanding Racial and Ethnic Differences in Health in Late Life: A Research Agenda, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK24693/)  Because Julian and I are African American, males over 50, this can easily be seen as three strikes. But this is the game of life, not baseball. Health care providers are supposed to be the standard bearers for showing the world that all lives should matter. 

I am asking law enforcement to investigate his passing. I certainly mourn over the loss of my brother, but this is bigger than Julian and I. Everyone deserves to feel safe when they go to visit any health care provider.

 

David Shabazz

Frankfort, Kentucky

 

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