Scroll To Top




When her partner was rushed to the hospital with massive bleeding in the brain from an aneurysm, Janice Langbehn and their three kids weren't allowed to see her until she died

"You are in an antigay city and state." Those were the words of the social worker at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital as my partner, Lisa, lay dying just steps away in the trauma center, behind locked doors. He punched his code on the keyboard and walked away, leaving me standing in the waiting room with our children -- Katie, David, and Danielle, ages 9 through 13. None of us could see her.

Less than 30 minutes earlier, we had been on an RFamily Vacations cruise ship set to sail to the Bahamas. For months, each of us had been dreaming of white sandy beaches and blue waters and spending some much needed vacation time together as a family.

Lisa and I met in 1989. We dated, settled down, built our lives together over many years. We supported each other through school and while we established our careers. We adopted our children when they were little. We had the perfect family life.

Lisa and the kids were on the top deck of the ship when she collapsed last February. They were playing basketball as the crew prepared the ship to depart. The kids managed to help her down to our stateroom, where I had been unpacking. As soon as they came through the door, I knew it was something serious. Lisa, who was healthy, could not talk or stand. I asked if she had hit her head, and she sternly replied no in sign language, which we had learned to communicate with the many language-delayed children we had fostered over the years. When medics loaded her into the gurney to transport her to the hospital, she signed, "I love you." It was the last time we would see her alive.

Lisa and Janice flank children Katie, David, and Danielle as they board the RFamily cruise ship in February.

It may sound morbid, but we had prepared for something like this: When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, we took every precaution, including signing advanced directives and durable powers of attorney. We tucked them away in our files in case my condition should worsen, but being denied access to my partner in the hospital? This was backward--this should not be happening.

While I wasn't allowed to see Lisa and her doctors, other families went in and out of the trauma center unfettered. I spoke with the receptionist, the guard, and the insufferable social worker -- they all refused to tell me of Lisa's condition or treatment. I even had Lisa's physician call from home in an attempt to get any medical information, and a friend go to our house, get our legal documents, and fax them to the hospital. Despite my best efforts, it was three hours before anyone came out to talk with me about Lisa.

It was a neurosurgeon, who told me that she had suffered massive bleeding due to a brain aneurysm and asked my permission to place a pressure monitor in her skull. I consented, and then an hour later two different surgeons came out and warned me that the rupture had seriously damaged her brain. As they were telling me this, they were paged, then stepped out of the room. When they returned, they said her other pupil had "blown" and that Lisa was likely brain-dead. Shortly after, she was taken off life support.

Someone precious was taken from my family that day, someone we can never get back. Lisa was denied the right to be with her family and to hold my hand during the last moments of her life.

This July, just five months after Lisa's death, the kids and I arrived in Miami for another RFamily cruise bound for the Bahamas. I was seeking closure, drawn back to the place that has haunted my children and me. And we found some: We found Lisa's spirit, surrounded by gay and lesbian families like ours, celebrating and relaxing together in a safe place -- where we are affirmed.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Outtraveler Staff