Vanessa Hart’s Final Days Didn’t Have To Be

by | General, Personal

Vanessa Hart

This is probably the most difficult and challenging things I’ve posted here  because it pains me to actually acknowledge and say to the universe that one of my best friends, Vanessa Hart, voice actor and                                    audiobook narrator and coach is dead.  I’ve been grieving and thinking about how how approach this . Then I decided to sit my ass down and finally finish this today and answer a lot of questions asked of me.

As the gamut of emotions poured out of me since her death, one thing has come clear to me. In my opinion, the unfolding of events  during the last week of 54 year-old Vanessa Hart’s  life could’ve been avoided, and she might still be around.

It Began Super Bowl Sunday-Feb. 2
Vanessa started to become ill, throwing up and couldn’t keep anything down. She’d been having digestive issues ever since I’ve known her, and they’d flare up occasionally. But she usually had it under control. Her way.

Tuesday Feb. 4
Her stomach was horribly bloated and reddened. Still sick to her stomach. A friend offered to take her to the doctor but she refused, saying she’d stick it out.

Wed. Feb 5
Vanessa finally agreed to go to the ER when her pain was out of control. She was later admitted and given a battery of tests to diagnose what was going on.  In went a naso-gastric tube to remove stomach contents. (which she absolutely hated because it made her throat dry!) Subsequent tests revealed a total blockage of the small intestine and she was so dehydrated her kidneys were shutting down. She  was put on IV to replace fluids and nutrients plus ice chips. The kidneys came back to full function shortly thereafter. With her in LA and me in Wisconsin,  I still didn’t know any of this was going on.

Friday, February 7th:
Friday is the day Vanessa and I usually speak on the phone for our weekly “stand up” accountability sessions, which last anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour. Instead, I received a brief email from her. The subject line said: “I don’t want to worry you but”.  And the body of the email simply said, ” I’m in the hospital”. What  followed over the next three days was a series of one-line email exchanges. She was too ill to speak on the phone. I was asking for information, only getting back  a partial picture of what was happening. She didn’t let on how dire the situation actually was, to me or her Doctors and nurses.  Why ?

White Coat Syndrome
Few people knew that Vanessa had a deep fear of hospitals, surgery, and traditional medicine. As a result, she didn’t get regular checkups, and used herbal remedies whenever she felt under the weather. She wasn’t the picture of health, and I’d holler at her for chain smoking.  When she shattered her wrist last year, she endured pain I can’t even imagine refusing  surgery,  opting for a full length arm cast and painful “setting” of delicate bones.  When I asked the reason for her choice, she said, “I won’t be cut. I don’t think I’m a good candidate for any surgery. I’m afraid I won’t wake up. And I smoke.”  Again, Her way.

Just the week before I received her initial email, we discussed what “FEAR” stands for. I shared what I’d heard in an excellent SAG Foundation seminar, and to consider it an acronym for ” False Evidence Appearing Real”. She liked that and wrote it down and posted it in her house somewhere so she’d see it regularly.

Sat. Feb 8
Meanwhile, I kept researching her condition on WebMD and asked a slew of questions. I admonished her to listen to her Doctor and do what the hospital staff recommended, or she could die. She promptly replied, “I have no intention of dying.” I reminded her of our conversation about FEAR, and that I’d hope she’d  go through with exploratory surgery and take care of the problem once and for all.
She told me  she was feeling a bit better, and scheduled for exploratory surgery for Monday the 10th.  I was amazed she actually agreed to the surgery.

Sun. Feb. 9
She emailed to say that whatever was being done at the hospital so far, “worked” and that she was going home. I was hopeful. And without exploratory surgery? Wow.

Monday Feb. 10
I emailed to ask if indeed she was home. I received a one word reply. “Yes”.
Figuring she needed time to recuperate from all things-hospital, I wanted to give her some space. Knowing Vanessa, when she wasn’t feeling well, she’d shut down for a while, and eventually bounce back to her usual feisty self.

Tuesday, Feb. 11
By  8AM she was dead. I can’t believe that I just wrote those words:  One of my closest friends- she was dead.
I didn’t find out until  two days later; the 13th – of all days. A friend  read it on Facebook emailed me and expressed his condolences because he knew we were close. I immediately went to Facebook, and there it was. Vanessa’s sister posted the news on Vanessa’s Facebook page.
I was stunned. In disbelief. How could it be?

I posted on my own Facebook page the fact that I was stunned, crushed that I had to see it on Facebook. I just didn’t know what to do with all the feelings. It’s been hard to to go back there  and see how people just  resume normal stuff, posting pictures of their pets and food and beautiful lives for all to see and simply move on when I’m so sad.

Back in the day, news like this would arrive analogue, in the newspaper or telephone call or face-to face. Now our digital world is more immediate and massive. Along with this trend, there’s a morbid curiosity about the facts surrounding someone’s death. Especially if that person has any  notoriety. People asked me if she overdosed or committed suicide. I’d bet not.
On the positive side, there was  an immediate and  huge outpouring of thousands from the voiceover community of heartfelt condolences and anecdotes on her page.

But then,  like a three-ring circus, there were a few who immediately used news of Vanessa Hart’s death to appoint themselves spokesperson and announce it in a mass email blast to voiceover people and casting directors and God knows who else!  Another  went so far as to to recount faulty facts about their teaching relationship two years ago and directed people to read more at her “Facebook fan page”.  God, Vanessa would be so pissed!

It reminds me of the tasteless AT&T ads that took a photo of an AT&T cell phone taking a picture of the Twin Towers burning down to the ground.  Calling attention to one’s  own benefit based on another’s  tragedy. Not OK!

So How could Vanessa’s Death have been avoided?
I later learned Vanessa refused to have exploratory surgery, and checked herself out of the hospital Monday, despite signing off on several written warnings not to leave.  She lied to the medical staff about her progress so she could leave!  To avoid surgery.

Later her Doctor contacted her sister to say that he was shocked she’d died, and felt it highly improbable that death would occur from the gastric blockage at home.

Vanessa  was a very close, complex, and headstrong friend that right now I’d give just about anything to bitch at!
I’d say, “Life is a do it to yourself project.”, and this time, she made a bad choice to refuse medical treatment. Out of F.E.A.R.  She always did things her way.  I must admit I’ve felt angry at her choice to turn away the treatment that could save her.   That could remedy the digestive issues plaguing  her for years. Her doctor believed death was possibly caused by either heart-attack or stroke. But there will be no autopsy, so no one will ever know for sure. Forever.

As to those who shamelessly spam us with your self-importance and your monetary angles and affiliate deals , SETTLE DOWN, and please just take a step back!   This is another human being’s life.  Not your self-promotional topic for social networks.

As for the rest of us whose lives she touched,  I hope we’ll take time to discern and allow Vanessa’s impact on  our lives and or careers large or small… speak quietly. And respectfully.

My heart is where our friendship lives. I must let you go now. Rest In Peace, in my heart, my friend, Vanessa Hart.






  1. Thinking of you Bobbin. Sending you prayers and hugs. This really touched me and is such a good reminder/lesson about life.

    • XOX, Tracy. Thank you so much. Your words are a comfort.

  2. Beautifully written, Bobbin and still so very sad. I appreciate you taking the time to share this.

    • Thanks, Terry. You’ve talked with me at my worst during all this. I’m feeling much better, now that I’ve gotten this out there. A huge relief. I wanted to do her proud.

      • And that you did! 🙂

        • Terry,
          Thank you & Tracy for being there for in in what felt like the darkest hours. I’m feeling catharsis now, since I said what I had to say. Today was a little crazy after I put it out there, and it opened up another wave of intense feelings, but I know it’ll get a little better each day. Thanks.

  3. Thank you so much for posting this.

    • You’re welcome, Tara. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. As uncomfortable as it might have been for you to write this, Bobbin, I want to commend you for telling not only Vanessa’s truth, but yours as well. Vanessa is beyond healing right now, but you and many others who read this will benefit from the story told. Although I risk becoming that ATT ad here I need to self reference: I grew up in a doctor’s family and I am aware of the good done on the whole by the medical community and I never fear to follow up on health issues – I’m so very glad I did recently because I may have become a casualty myself had I not. The detail I need not go into here, but I’m glad I took positive action and the message from my own experience, reinforced for me unfortunately by Vanessa’s story, is to be vigilant and not to allow FEAR to stop action. Thank you, Bobbin. Be well.

    • Wow, Simon. Thanks so much for stopping by today to share. I am a doctor’s daughter so I get what you’re saying about fear and health concerns. Sometimes we must face into that fear, and not allow it to paralyze us, to come through it. Stay well!

  5. Bobbin: Thank you. This story captivated me. You’re an excellent writer in the toughest of situations and your sharing this has a great impact. I’m wiping tears as I write this. Thank you for sharing your friend’s story.

    • Dustin,
      Thank you. I feel your empathy through the words you wrote, and appreciate your addition here.

  6. Cara Bobbin,
    Thank you for writing this. I’m glad you found some relief in doing so. I’m certain you’ve done Vanessa proud. She loved you so much Bobbin! I saw it and felt it when she spoke of you. It was an honor for me to sit in Vanessa’s living room and hear the story of how your friendship began with her. Vanessa touched so many hearts with her southern charm and generosity. I can only imagine the magnitude of this loss for you as her best friend. May you find comfort and strength in your memories…
    Un abbraccio enorme,

    • Robin,
      Thank you for sticking with me and constantly checking in during those first days as I has wrapping my head around it all. You’re a good friend.

  7. That was lovely, Bobbin. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Dear Bobbin,
    Thank you for sharing your heart.
    May the gift of love you and Vanessa shared — give you peace and comfort.
    I’m praying for you as you grieve.
    Huge Hug,

    • So sweet, Glad. Thank you.

  9. Thank you, Bobbin. During the SAG-AFTRA Audiobook Steering Committee teleconference yesterday, the twenty-or-so of us observed a moment of silence to think about Vanessa. I had hoped we would do that and was glad we did. Thought you’d like to know that if you didn’t already.

    That’s a lot of info about V that I didn’t know (I called her “V.”). During the audiobook downturn last year she told me she was taking advantage of the time off to take care of routine life things that she’d put off. Dentist and doctor’s appointments, etc. I wish she’d done just a little more. I’m so sorry you lost your good friend.

  10. Bobbin,
    I can’t even imagine the impact Vanessa’s passing must have had on you. I am very touched by the beautiful and courageous way you wrote. Your lack of bitterness is inspiring.
    Thank you, and bless you for sharing.

    • I’ll not be bitter, Linda. Vanessa’ friendship was a special gift. I’m hoping others may learn from the writing about taking care of yourself, and consideration of others lives in this instant, digital age.

  11. Bobbin,
    Thank you so much for sharing this. It must have been so difficult to write but hopefully it’s also been therapeutic for you too. Sometimes we need to actually ‘say’ things to help us ‘feel’. If that makes sense.
    I hardly knew Vanessa although I did meet and chat with her a few times. She definitely made an impact on me. I am very sad about her passing. I’ve seen her picture on Facebook every day since she passed away as yet another person just finding out about her has commented with condolences on her page or to someone else.
    I am pleased you mentioned the despicable opportunists. I know exactly who you are talking about and I was very tempted to contact one in particular to give them a dressing down but thought better of it because it would go in one ear and out the other and they would likely not apologize for their actions. It’s awful.
    Grief is a terrible thing and a process we go through in steps. Sudden death like this often creates a sense of anger at the person for leaving. How dare they do that!! You’re allowed to be angry at her, allowed to think she was silly to not listen to reason from the doctors but eventually you will come to terms with what happened and accept that she was who she was, which made her a very special, lovable person. One of her characteristics of being defiant and headstrong has led to her passing but from what I’ve learned about her it seems she would have it no other way. 20 years ago I lost my dad in a very similar way. He had many health problems, wouldn’t listen to doctors, continued with his vices of smoking and drinking and one morning just passed out at the dining table smoking a cigarette and drinking a cup of tea. In a blink he was gone! He was also just 54. My mother was angry at him for weeks after his death. How dare he not listen to reason and help himself get well. Did he not realize other people care about him and don’t want him to be ill. But no he was as he was and we all eventually accepted that he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. He had a fear of hospitals, of surgery or developing cancer and dying a lengthy slow death as his own dad had. He didn’t want to be a burden. He couldn’t have asked for a better way to go and now I’m glad he did die the way he did except that it was at least 30 years too early. It took a while to reach that realization though.
    I wish I could give you a hug right now. I’ve been very wordy and I apologize for that and I’m not sure they have been of any comfort. If I was with you in person now a hug would be my medicine. I’m good at those and I will have one at the ready if we do happen to be at the same events later in the year. Xxxxx take care and keep smiling for Vanessa!

    • Wow, Pearl! I appreciate your sharing the story about your Dad. We can’t allow fear to immobilize us. And “if it ain’t broke, you don’t need to fix!” But she was who she was, and I loved her despite of that fear. Heck nobody’s perfect, and she and I just had some marvelous connection. I hope that the post has served to show her respect, and to teach us all some benefit in some way as a result. I appreciate your candor, and when I see you again, I’ll take you up on that hug! Bobbin

  12. Bobbin,

    You are a good friend – to Vanessa, to me and to all of us.

    This post is just one shining example of how special you are and how proud I know Vanessa was to have you as her friend.

    Best always,
    – Peter

    • Peter,
      You always know what to say, and I appreciate your friendship more than you know.

  13. Vanessa has a big grin on her face right now! You did her proud!!
    Rest in peace, dear Vanessa; we all miss you!

    • Rich,
      If this WordPress thingie had a “like” button, you’d have one from me. oops–that’s a Facebook thing. Thanks for adding your thoughts to the conversation.

  14. Bobbin, It took a lot of guts for you to write this piece, and share it with all of us. I can’t imagine the shock of it all for you. It makes me want to hold my loved ones a little closer because you never know what tomorrow brings. This story will help others, know that for certain.

    How lucky you and Vanessa were to have each other, and I am so sorry for your loss.

    Thank you for sharing it all…


    • Lori,
      It took me a while to compose my thoughts, and spent a lot of time editing, and editing more. I was very scattered the first five or so days after the news hit. Your contribution to the conversation is very much appreciated. Bobbin

  15. My dear Bobbin, You more than did dear Vanessa proud (which you most certainly did). You may have saved many lives. FEAR wants to be our master, even when it makes no sense. You have helped us all with your perspective and by sharing your deep love for Vanessa with us.
    Love, Randye

    • Randye,
      Thanks for your thoughts here and for your call this evening. Love you and hope to see you this year!

  16. Thank you for sharing Bobbin. Such a tragedy, She will be missed. Prayers for you and Vanessa’s family are being lifted. Much Love – Diane

    • Diane,
      You’re a wonderful friend to have. Thanks for your prayers. I’ll pass them along to Vanessa’s family as well. -Love, Bobbin

  17. Vanessa’s death came as a complete shock to me. Thank you so much for sharing some of the details of what lead to her passing. Your story of disbelief, anger and compassion has a powerful message. Vanessa’s gone, but her voice will stay with us for a long, long time.

    • Thanks, Paul. This was a breakout post for me, that moved me out of my comfort zone, but I’ve learned that a point of view is liberating, when things need to be said. Your subjects are a wonderful example of strong POV. Thank you for that.

  18. I don’t know you personally, Bobbin. I only ‘know’ you socially though our online VO community. But, I feel compelled to chime-in and say this: Vanessa was blessed to call you friend. And if I was closer, I would rush to embrace you and cry with you. I’m SO sorry you’ve lost your BFF. 🙁

    • A truly appreciate your comforting words, Debby. Some day we’ll share that hug.

  19. Thank you for sharing this story, Bobbin. We were all wondering how she tragically passed and this answered a lot of questions.

    I too experienced her reluctance to get medical attention. When she fell and broke her wrist, it was just after getting home from a session with me. As she lives less than a mile from me, I offered to take her to the hospital to have it checked up on, but she told me she’d be fine. I followed up with her later in the evening, and she told me it was worse. It was at that point that I insisted she go to urgent care. I picked her up and took her to UC, but unfortunately it was closed at that time of the day. I told her we could go to another UC that is open in downtown LA, but she didn’t want to be that far from home. She then insisted I take her home, assuring me she’d be fine. I took her home reluctantly, knowing she should have her wrist checked out. She later confided that if she’d gone in to the doctor the day of, the recovery would have been faster.

    It deeply saddens me that her reluctance to seek medical treatment would ultimately take her from us. I miss her infectious laughter, her feistiness, and her generous love. There are no doctors in heaven, dear Vanessa, so smile and keep on laughing!

    • Zach,
      Vanessa spoke glowingly of you a number of times, and suggested we connect soon. How’s that for irony? I’m so happy you helped her with her VO editing work and that wrist incident. So you know how she was about asking for medical assistance. Drove me nuts sometimes!
      She probably didn’t want to be too far away from home, so she could keep an eye on her kitties. Thank you for sharing your story about Vanessa here.

  20. Dear Bobbin,

    Thank you for sharing this most difficult story. What a tragedy! I also found out through fb and was (still am) in disbelief. She was a great talent and I will miss her immensely!

    I am very sorry for the loss of your friend,


    • Dunja,
      Thanks so much for stopping here. I know Vanessa was also with your agency, and that she enjoyed working with you. We’re all going to miss her voice and her fantastic presence.

  21. What a beautiful article Bobbin. I didn’t know Vanessa other than on FB, but she sounds like someone i’d adore. I’m so sorry for your loss. Anything we as a community can do, you just let us know.

  22. Dear Bobbin,
    Thanks for sharing from you heart about the loss of a dear friend. Though I didn’t know Vanessa personally, I was “connected” through all our channels, and when I saw the news on FB, felt shocked and as if it couldn’t be true. It’s how I felt when I saw from a FB post that Philip Seymour Hoffman had died. One moment we’re here, doing our jobs, being alive, part of a family, and then all of a sudden, we’re not. Unfortunately, that’s the sad truth of life for all of us. But when it comes so unexpectedly, it does seem selfishly unfair. And of course, it’s usually hardest on the ones left behind. I’m glad to hear you’re working through your grief. Was she married, or did she have children? I don’t know, and can’t assume one way or another.
    Sometimes our FEARS are worse than dying. I suppose it’s a wake up call for all of us, to realize, once again, that life is precious, and we must always be making decisions daily that keep us on our positive course. I’m sure Vanessa is still on a positive course. Just not in her physical body anymore. Blessings sent.

  23. Dear Bobbin,
    I did not know Vanessa Hart but like Debbie, I “knew” of her through all the voice over channels. I guess we all know many in VO this way! I felt very sad about looking at the photo with her enthusiastic and wonderful smile, then seeing the news of her passing and reading the tributes from so many people whose lives she touched. I have empathy for everyone who knew her and am sorry for your loss. I think after a certain age, we all unfortunately know at least one person whose death could have been prevented through working through the fear and taking action. Four years ago my 57 year old cousin died of a heart attack after opting out of going to the ER after feeling pressure in her chest and an uncomfortable feeling all over. A trip to the ER could have saved her.
    Though this is a difficult time in your grief, I know you will honor Vanessa by remembering the good she brought to your life.

    • Arlene, Debbie, and Moe,
      I appreciate for sharing your caring thoughts and words here. They mean more than you can possibly imagine.

  24. It’s taken me a while to contribute and I don’t know why. Nor do I know why, after being there for her so many times, I was unable, or unaware, or not perceptive enough to recognize that something was very, very wrong. Some of the responsibility is hers; in this instance she left me significantly out of the loop. And knowing how much she valued her privacy, I chose to step back rather than push it. My mistake. My huge, horrendous, one-day-forgivable-but-not-yet mistake. Because the question I ask myself with increasing frequency since she’s been gone is: ‘If I had been with her at the hospital on that Monday I might have been able to talk her out of leaving and going home’.

    • Don,
      We can probably all look back at something in the past and think, “I should’ve (fill in the blank)”. All we can do is learn and press on. Never forgetting the lesson. Thanks so much for leaving a comment. Your friendship meant a great deal to Vanessa, and through her is how we met and became friends. And that is one of her many gifts she gave to both of us.

  25. I hadn’t actually heard the details until this article. Frankly, I almost didn’t want to read the article about what happened with Vanessa.

    But I did. I’m terribly sad that she’s gone and even more so as it probably could have been avoided. She was too young and too full of life. (being so full of life is still the part that I have a hard time dealing with in regards to Vanessa)

    Still, part of her legacy now is a lesson for all of us.

    I’ve been working from home full time since 2006. I find that its even easier to get more set in my own ways, less flexible, less adaptive when I’m not confronted with actual people everyday. My family and pets challenge me a bit, but not like coworkers, traffic, clients (in person) and more. One of the things that speaks to me from this article, is that I need to be extra attentive at trying to remain flexible and more open minded.

    It’s real easy, far too easy, via social media and the news we choose to read or watch to find affirmations of our beliefs about how to live and not enough challenges to question those choices or decisions that may not be the best because at the end of the day, a bad choice or two compounded by more bad choices made when you are not feeling well or are in pain, can be terrible.

    there’s a saying that I don’t fully remember, but goes something like

    A smart person can learn from their own mistakes.
    A wise person can learn from the mistakes of others.

    The point of the saying in part is not to emphasize the mistake itself, but to acknowledge how truly difficult it is for anyone to learn from a mistake at all. We repeat our mistakes, especially those that are the result of our personality flaws.

    Deep sigh

    Thanks Bobbin. Thanks for writing this and thank you for introducing me to Vanessa as well. I am better for reading the article and understanding and definitely better for having known Vanessa too!

    • Brett,
      Thank you for leaving a comment here. You’re a good friend, and your words are wise.

  26. I am sorry to say that I just learned of this tragic loss. Vanessa was my audiobook mentor and was instrumental getting me into the business. Kind and thoughtful, I appreciated everything she did for me. May she rest in peace.

    • Adam,
      Thank you. It’s nice to hear from you. I’m certain she’d appreciate your kind remarks.


  1. 15 Top Voiceover Blog Posts This Week - March 1, 2014 | Derek Chappell's Voiceover Blog - […] Vanessa Hart’s Final Days Didn’t Have To Be  Bobbin Beam […]

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