Lamar Odom is tragic proof that reality TV is not reality at all.

According to numerous sources, 35-year-old former NBA star Lamar Odom is fighting for his life.

The free agent who has played for a handful of highly ranked teams over the course of his career, including the Los Angeles Clippers and the Miami Heat, helped the Los Angeles Lakers win two NBA championships in 2010 and 2011 and has long been well loved by his teammates and millions of sports fans across the globe.

Today it's reported that he is lying in a hospital bed, in critical condition, unable to breathe on his own after being found unconscious, due as E! News announced to a drug overdose. What happened?


Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images .

Despite his celebrity status, Lamar's life was anything but charmed.

His mother died of cancer when he was 12 years old. His father was a heroin addict for most of his life. His infant son died of SIDS in 2006. And just this summer, two of his good friends died of complications due to drug abuse just days apart. Yet, despite these hardships, and his reputation within the basketball world as "troubled" since his days as a highly ranked college player, the well liked, big-hearted team player and father of three had created a life that, from afar, looked like the quintessential success story.

Then, in 2009, he met and married Khloe Kardashian of "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" fame. He was immediately thrust into the very unreal world of reality television.

Thanks to the Kardashians, millions of people who would otherwise never have paid any attention to Odom and who had no appreciation for him as an athlete, let alone as a survivor with very real personal triumphs and struggles, knew him as just another side character in the Kardashian universe.

Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for AXE.

His whirlwind romance with Khloe, their marriage, their still-pending divorce, and his long-rumored battle with substance abuse was highlighted on "Kardashians" long after he was no longer appearing on it. As recently as last week, viewers saw Khloe answer a call from him as he shared the news of his best friend's sudden death. She expressed concern to the cameras that anything could send him "spiraling." That sad moment however, like all others, was followed by a commercial break, a whistling theme song, and another quirky storyline. Because that's reality TV.

But with Odom in the hospital, in the off-camera and unscripted world that we all inhabit, things have gotten just a little too real.

Reports that Odom has suffered brain damage and a stroke don't sound like how an entertaining, lighthearted storyline is supposed to go. If Lamar and Khloe's story was scripted for TV, she would rush to his bedside, and Lamar would wake up any minute with no lingering health effects, learn his lesson, and never do drugs again, just like that.

But in reality, addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease — meaning that only about a third of people who are sober less than a year will remain sober. And according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapse rates for addiction are similar to "flare up" rates for any other chronic illness like diabetes or asthma when medication isn't taken. Drug addicts bounce in and out of rehab, and recovery is messy.

If this were made for reality TV, Lamar would return to the NBA, call off his divorce, and have the romantic reunion Khloe has longed for, celebrated in a Very Special Episode ("About Lamar"?) next season. But in reality, many addicts end up losing their battle with drugs — and their lives — before ever experiencing prolonged recovery despite the wishes and support of their loved ones.

Khloe, Lamar, and his children. Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images.

In real life, most of our struggles and hardships are private. We do our best to control what of our lives is shared with the world and what secrets we keep behind closed doors. Exposure can wreak havoc on one's personal and professional life, as we saw in an angry paparazzi video filmed last year where Odom railed against how he had been treated by the media and how the negative attention around his drug use and marriage had affected his life.

If all we know of Lamar is what we see on reality TV, we see him as a high-maintenance ex, who, while deeply loved, was just too troubled for our main character; he is a voice on the other end of the telephone that won't stop calling. In reality, he is a whole person — a father, a son, and a friend. He is a generous guy who bought fancy new suits for rookie players and financially supported his friends and family. And he is an imperfect man dealing with the side effects of a life filled with heartache and pain.

Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images.

As he lies in a hospital bed in Nevada fighting for his life, the world is remembering what real, unedited life looks like.

America likes its reality TV served with much of the reality removed. We appreciate watching a version of life that is scripted to sound perfectly unscripted, a natural, no-makeup look that takes a ton of makeup to achieve, an endearing family with "normal problems" that can conveniently be solved in half-hour episodes and with millions of dollars.

In other words, we love reality TV because it looks a little bit like life but offers an escape from the one that most of us are living.

Photo via Pexels.

It provides refuge from a life that is hard and full of complicated, complex challenges like the legacy of poverty or the clutches of addiction and depression — problems that Lamar was all too familiar with.

So what happens when "characters" like Lamar have their struggles exposed, and we suddenly see them as just as fragile and real as we are?

We are reminded that despite our desire to escape it, real life is beautiful and wonderful but never easy. It is messy and painful but also precious. And it is worth living.

His struggles, all too common for millions of Americans, should remind us that no matter what illusions our pop culture has created, from the gated communities of Beverly Hills to the housing projects of New Orleans, life at its essence boils down to two simple mandates for us all:

1. We must take care of ourselves.

2. We must take care of each other.

That is really all there is. The privileges and the responsibilities of dealing with our issues and helping others deal with theirs make up the reality of off-camera life. Lamar Odom is in need of care, and his journey is so much more than a reality TV plotline. It is, just like each of our lives, very very real.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less
via Fox 5 / YouTube

Back in February, northern Virginia was experiencing freezing temperatures, so FOX 5 DC's Bob Barnard took to the streets to get the low down. His report opens with him having fun with some Leesburg locals and trying his hand at scraping ice off their parked cars.

But at about the 1:50 mark, he was interrupted by an unaccompanied puppy running down the street towards the news crew.

The dog had a collar but there was no owner in sight.

Barnard stopped everything he was doing to pick the dog up off the freezing road to keep it safe. "Forget the people we talked to earlier, I want to get to know this dog," he told his fellow reporters back in the warm newsroom.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of CeraVe
True

"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

Keep Reading Show less