I met Gaby Duffy in the summer of 2004 when she came to our annual weeklong family vacation party at Lake LBJ in central Texas.

She came with her best friend, Maren Anderson, brought along her ever-present camera and left a trail of sparkly fun in her path.

We introduced her to real barbecue, boat dock fishing and magnificent sunsets.

Gaby saw her last sunset on May 9. She died in an Ottawa, Ill., hospital, where she’d taken herself after several days of high fever that she had tried to beat without the doctors she could not afford.

Gaby had no health insurance.

By the time she got to the Ottawa Regional Hospital and Healthcare Center on May 7, she had already lost the time needed to diagnosis and treat the fever. Tests were run to no good conclusion. On Saturday evening, after a good visit with her best friend, Gaby suffered an acute symptomatic seizure and died.

She was 25.

Gaby was a college graduate with a bachelor of fine arts degree in photography from Columbia College in Chicago. She would have begun school in September in New York, working toward a doctorate in art history. She was an extraordinary photographer, the oldest of four daughters, a mentor to at-risk teenagers and the kind of friend who brought life to the party.

She just happened to find herself between opportunities for group health insurance. She was one of 45,000 Americans who die every year because they don’t have insurance. That’s one death every 12 minutes.

But Gaby is not a statistic to me. She is a real person.

Her death was shocking. It was tragic. It was absolutely unnecessary.

Just so you know.

Jan Chapman is a former broadcast journalist, a storyteller and a blogger. She is a member of Church of the Savior, a UCC congregation with Baptist roots in Austin, Texas. She blogs at Thinking in Peaces.

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