Leah and Tony just returned from a vacation in Alaska, and Susan also took some vacation time to travel around the state with them. They took several of the pictures on this site, generously sharing the photos and this background info about the circumstances surrounding Susan's death.
It is hard to know our friend was having such a hard time, but I am glad that Leah is willing to share this information, and she asked that I post it up here.
Also note in bold below, Leah's suggestion for another recipient for memorial donations.
As you all know by now, Dr. Susan Barnes died on Saturday August 5, 2006. She took her own life, using an IV. Since she was a physician, it is reasonable to hope that it was swift and painless.. She did so in the confines of her trailer with her 3 dogs beside her.
Susan was in a great deal of pain. As some of you may know, Susan had gastric bypass surgery several years ago and since then has had major complications. She developed rickets (due to an inability to absorb Vitamin D, which helps us use Calcium) and therefore her bones were brittle and painful. Aside from the physical pain, Susan was very isolated in Haines, Alaska but chose to live there because of its incredible beauty. She worked in a small clinic where she worked almost 7 days a week, often for 18 hours a day. She had very few close friends, but did have one really close friend with whom she had been on the phone with the night she died.
Susan also maintained no contact with her family. They did Christmas cards every couple of years and that’s about all. She told me that she didn’t know if her parents were dead or alive. They had disowned her for being gay, many years ago.
Susan was also terribly in debt. When she graduated medical school she was $300,000 in debt which grew into $800,000.
As you can imagine, she felt trapped and hopeless. We had discussed alternate career plans. If she had claimed bankruptcy she would lose her license to practice medicine.
For those of you who didn’t know her well. Susan had an incredible heart and was incredibly generous. Her biggest love was her 3 rescue boxers. When we were there, we traveled with she and her dogs and I remember saying to my partner, “if it weren't for those dogs, I would be concerned that Susan would kill herself."
She was very sad and depressed but I am truly glad that she enjoyed the vacation we all had together.
Her dogs are safe and sound in a boarding place for dogs, run by a Dianne Nelson. Diane has assured me that the dogs will be well looked after. She told me that she had asked Susan for an emergency contact number just in case something ever happened while the dogs were in her care. Susan had mentioned that there. Dianne said she would be happy to take them in an emergency if she needed. Susan spoke very highly about the way that this woman treated her dogs and that they had lots of space to run around. One of her dogs is fairly ill and needs regular medical treatment.
I have been in touch with some people from Alaska named Hosanna and Katt. Susan’s body is in a funeral home in Anchorage and the police have gotten in touch with Susan’s family. We are in the process of trying to contact the family to let us take care of her remains. Susan told me that Homer, Alaska was the most beautiful place on Earth. We would like to have her cremated and have her ashes scattered there. Her friends in Anchorage volunteered to help arrange this.
Many of you have asked whether you can donate some money to a charity in her name. We are requesting that if you wish to donate money, to do so to the woman who took the dogs and/or the women who arranging the cremation.
As there is no money in Susan’s estate all would be greatly appreciated. I will send this information out as soon as it is available.
Thank you all for your pouring out of attention. I wish Susan knew how much she was thought of.
A little Googling has turned up the address of the woman who is taking care of Susan's dogs, if you want to contact her:
Porcupine Pampered Pet Kennels
Dianne V. Nelson
33.4 Mile Haines Hwy.
HC 60 Box 3317
Haines, AK 99827
And if anyone is interested in donating to the women who are taking care of finalities with Susan's ashes (there was no money in her estate) here is the information:
Please make checks payable to:
P.O. Box 671725
Chugiak AK 99567