(Medical reporter Meg Farris originally reported this story in 2003, when longtime “The Young & the Restless” soap opera star Jeanne Cooper visited New Orleans. Cooper died Wednesday at age 84. The Charity Hospital detox unit that she visited has since closed, but Cooper’s emotional visit there is still fondly remembered.)
There is usually a waiting list for one of the 20 medical detox beds at Charity Hospital and when a soap opera star came to New Orleans and heard of proposed budget cuts at Charity, she decided to visit patients suffering from addiction and voice her opinion to keep the unit open.
For years you've known her as Katherine Chancellor, a character on “The Young and the Restless,” who at one time was an alcoholic, but what you may not know is that actress Jeanne Cooper battled the same story line in real life.
“I said to myself, ‘I will not, I will not have a shot of brandy if I have a stomach spasm,’ and when I said no, the brandy said yes,” she said.
She went through a 30 day detox program and hasn't had alcohol in 20 years. Now she uses her experience and passion to educate.
“It is a disease. When it enters your blood stream and it affects every cell of your body. I get so infuriated that people can't see it.”
Needy people came to the Charity Hospital detox unit to safely withdraw from alcohol, heroin, cocaine, OxyContin or whatever they are addicted to. Without this medical treatment they could die or relapse if they try to detox on their own. Cooper asked to visit the patients. One lady was detoxing for the eighth time. It was time for tough love.
“Now, you can choose to make this your last time or you may as well face the fact that you're trying to kill yourself. Is that what you want?” Cooper asked her. “You see, I cry for you. I cry for you because you can't cry, right?”
“You know, you can forgive yourself. It is not a crime what's you've done,” she told the woman. “It's not a crime where you’re at. I feel your hurt.”
OxyContin and morphine stole the youth of another woman, just 22 years old.
“Don't ever be afraid to cry. Those are tears of healing. Let them flow, let them flow. You need to be a little girl again,” Cooper told her.
Another lady clutching the picture of her new grandchild tells of a childhood marred by sexual molestation and how it led to cocaine and alcohol abuse and a life living in the woods, homeless. Cooper asked her if she wants to one day wear nice clothes and drive a nice car. Her answer?
“All I really want is to be happy. You don't need things. I don't want money. Material things are just material things. I just want to be happy especially with myself.”
“I love you,” was Cooper’s heartfelt response.