Jonathan Larson, creator of RENT
In January 1996, in the few days before the final dress rehearsal of RENT, Larson visited the emergency departments at two different hospitals complaining of excruciating chest pain. One sent him home with a diagnosis of food poisoning; the second diagnosed a mild case of flu. In the middle of the night, without the emergency surgery that could have saved his life, Jonathan died alone in his New York City apartment. It was ten days before his 36th birthday.
The cause of the chest pain, and Jonathan’s death, turned out to be an aortic dissection, a tear in the large artery near the heart. Only after his death did Jonathan’s family and friends learn that his tall, lanky frame, indented chest bone, flat feet, long fingers and toes, and flexible joints should have led doctors to a possible Marfan syndrome diagnosis, which would have indicated a need for additional testing and immediate surgery. The survival rate for emergency surgery to repair a torn aorta is higher than 90 percent.
“We cannot bring back Jonathan, but it’s not too late for others,” said Al Larson, father of the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright. “Many people have told us that RENT changed their lives. For those who now become aware of Marfan syndrome and receive proper medical care as a result, the show can truly be life-saving.”