by Isolda Restrepo
Leigh Moross is one of Ojai’s finest and is one of a kind. She does her darndest, just as the rest of us do, to make the best of each day. One of the main differences being that it’s an actual, painstaking struggle for her to get out of bed each morning. Ms. Moross has suffered many broken and shattered bones, snapped tendons, a dislocated rotator cuff, nerve damage, Rheumatoid Arthritis, a plethora of surgeries, and poor health care. “Every single day feels like I’ve been hit by a car, AND I have the flu,” she recounts. In 2004 Leigh was all packed up to leave her home in Denver. She had landed a new doula position in Hawaii, and was just about ready to leave for the airport when she noticed her property manager was suddenly inside of her apartment. It was unusual that he was there at all, and that he was strangely lingering. All of a sudden he pounced on her like a coyote. “He tried to rape me. He didn’t get to, but he just crushed everything.” Leigh recounted. “My rotator cuff was snapped, my neck, hands, wrists, feet, tendons and my spine were all damaged. I had Nerve damage all through my hands and in my fingers. The pain was SO severe. It only got worse in the following years. I could no longer do the work I was doing. I couldn’t brush my teeth or pick anything up, and walking is challenging.”
Leigh had 12 surgeries, seeking to repair the damage done. Rheumatoid arthritis is isn’t like ordinary arthritis where one joint hurts. It’s more like a cancer that continues to grow and sort of eat at itself. It affects bones, joints, tissues, and leaves organs dysfunctional. “The doctors did the best they could,” she said, “but I’m still in total disrepair. Some of the surgeries helped, and others only made things worse.”
Me: “So you’re just living in pain 24 hours a day, seven days a week?”
Leigh: “Just since 2004. Haha.”
Me: “Oh, only since 2004!”
Leigh: (Laughs) “Yeah, and I know there’s people that do for their entire lives, but I just don’t choose to. It’s just too much. Having so many surgeries within four years, they medicated me with EVERYTHING. It’s scary to see the MRI’s, where I can see what the drugs have done to my brain. It’s like swiss cheese. They just gave me a prescription for 360 oxycontins this month. That’s insane. 15mg. If you have to be on that kind of medication just to get out of bed then you probably shouldn’t bother. I’m lucky to have this medication though. There are some people that are in pain, and can’t get any. I’m thrilled you guys have been there for me. Sespe Creek has really helped, because truly other than a huge bottle of oxycontin, nothing helps.”
Me: Sespe Creek is so grateful to be able to help at all. What forms of medical cannabis have helped you through this?
Leigh: Opiates eliminate the effect of most marijuana except for the strongest oils and edible products, and those are as necessary as oxygen. Bloom Farms Night formula has me sleeping again, THANK GOD. Chemistry has products for daytime that motivate me to eat a few bites of food occasionally and get upright for a while to get on the computer, water a few plants… And those simple things are impossible without. My favorite edible is the Moroccan Petra mints. The sensi-chews knock me out for a few hours. It’s so wonderful. I cannot sleep at all without these products. I really appreciate everyone helping in any way.
Leigh: There are no more medical solutions for me. I don’t want to suffer anymore. I am afraid of any more surgeries that may do more damage, so I just cannot do anymore surgeries. I found my own solution.
Leigh has decided to put an end to her life of suffering with grace and dignity.
Leigh: I didn’t know what else to do, so I looked up assisted suicide online, and found Dignitas in Zurich, Switzerland. They provide help for people suffering from chronic pain. She called and spoke with a man in europe in the middle of the night, not accounting for the time difference. He sat, listened, and told her, ‘if you can get here, I will help you.’ Once I found that I have been at peace. Now it’s just a matter of getting my story out, and getting help to get there. As a birthing doula, you assist a soul in, and in Zurich they basically have another type of doula, assisting you out. It’s a very peaceful process for me.”
Leigh’s story shows a new, different, light-hearted way of looking at something that our society tells us is bad, wrong, or taboo. Our concept of death and dying here in the states is a tough one. Generally, we have an unwillingness to look at or talk about it, which perpetuates. There is a potent fear around death and dying here, even though we know that it will happen to each and every one of us at some point. The thought of dying does not evoke fear in Leigh. The thought of living each day in monumental and constant pain does, but not death.
Leigh needs help getting to Switzerland. Here’s how you can help:
Here is the story of another woman who chose a dignified end to life when faced with unbearable pain and frailty: