Shalon Irving, a successful epidemiologist at the CDC, left behind a grieving tribe of loved ones after her sudden and inexplicable death at the age of 36.
Sharon, the last remaining child of her parents, Wanda and Samuel Irving, suffered from years of health complications, including uterine fibroids and high blood pressure, leaving behind her 11 -month-year-old daughter, Soleil.
On the morning of January 24, she took a selfie with her father and Soleil, who was only a few weeks old. Twelve hours later, she collapsed and died.
“In reality, Shalon’s many risk factors — including her clotting disorder, her fibroid surgery, the 36 years of wear and tear on her telomeres, her weight — boded a challenging nine months,” NPR writes.
Shalon’s heartbreaking story profiled recently by NPR highlights that even though her educational success afforded her a life of economic opportunity, she was not immune to the harsh effects of health disparities that Black women face, spurred by the balance of inequality. In fact, a New York City report surveying Black college educated mothers found that those who delivered in hospitals were higher prone to suffer immense health complications over white women without a high school education.
“According to the CDC, black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women’s health. Put another way, a black woman is 22 percent more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman, 71 percent more likely to perish from cervical cancer, but 300 percent more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes. In a national study of five medical complications that are common causes of maternal death and injury, black women were two to three times more likely to die than white women who had the same condition.”
Shalon’s story, one of grief and unthinkable circumstances, signaled the prevailing age-old predisposed dilemma of racism and the physical, mental and social effects of walking through the world as a Black woman.
“People say to me, ‘She won’t know her mother.’ That’s not true,” Daniel Sellers, Shalon’s cousin, said in an interview with NPR. “Her mother is in each and every one of you, each and every one of us. … This child is a gift to us. When you remember this child, you remember the love that God has pushed down through her for all of us. Soleil is our gift.”
Read the full story here.