I'm Sara's mom. Sara was 18 years old and our only child. She died of a PMA overdose on Mother's Day May 14th 2000. PMA is a drug similar to Ecstasy.
I can't tell you about Sara without telling you a little bit about our family.
My husband Bob is an Electronics Technician at a national laboratory and I'm a part-time receptionist for a local animal hospital. We don't have a huge social life. We enjoy our families and our home. We enjoyed working around the house and garden. Bob even designed and built a beautiful deck behind our home the summer after Sara died. He tried to cope with the death of our daughter by constantly working. I couldn't even get that far. I couldn't even leave the house. I think this is the difference between men and women and how they cope.
I was a stay home mom when Sara was young. When Sara was about a year old we moved into our second home. It was a hundred-year-old house that we wanted to restore. Sara helped with everything. I have pictures of her with her diapers on helping Bob hook up the plumbing. She knew the hardware store backward and forward.
When Sara entered Jr. High school I started working part-time, four days a week, only in the morning. I wanted to be home when Sara got home from school. Until Sara was about 14 and in high school, I made arrangements for someone to be with Sara on her extended vacations.
Sara was a wonderful girl. She loved nature. She always liked the walks we took in the forest preserve, especially in the fall. She also liked our pets, music, photography, drawing and decorating her room. We spent a lot of time together. We could just look at each other and know what the other was thinking. She loved her cousins and grandmother and when she was able to drive she would frequently drop over to see them.
Sara wasn't the perfect child though. She was very strong-willed and she was smart. She wanted things her way. When she was 4 years old. She asked if she could do something. When I told her no, she asked why. I told her that it was the rule. Her reply was "that's a stupid rule." I knew raising her was going to be a challenge.
Sara frequently pushed the limits. She wanted to experience everything life had to offer. This was a problem for me, because I was always afraid for her. I was very protective.
Sara had a lot of friends too. Even though I met most of them and was in touch with parents I always had to know where she was and who, she was with. I would keep track of her by paging and calling. She got a pager only because I could keep in contact with her. We got caller ID. I would page and she had to call and then I was able see where she was. I used to page a lot.
A couple of times in her life she was involved with marijuana. She said she didn't use it, but after searching her room we did see evidence of it. We enrolled her in a drug prevention program. I also went to private counseling with her.
When Sara turned 17 we were dealing with her independence. She would tell us that she was an adult now and she could do what she wanted. We informed her that she lived under our roof and needed to be respectful of our requests and us. In our town there is no curfew for young people 17 and up. She constantly reminded us of this, but she knew we worried. She introduced her friends to us, told us where she was going and called whenever she went to a different place. If she didn't, she knew I would start paging and calling and that was a fate worse than death. She would get so embarrassed.
After Sara died we learned that she had started using Ecstasy only 5 - 6 weeks before her death...on Spring Break. We also learned that she had attended a Rave and that several of her friends were supplying her with the Ecstasy. They would just give it to her. She wasn't a user for very long, but we did notice that she was much more depressed and irritable. She was always tired too. I also remember her mentioning back pain.
Just after Spring Break Sara started spending time with a friend. He was the brother of a classmate of Sara's. He got her a job and they went to the job together. He would hang out with Sara and her friends. He was a very friendly type of guy and liked to talk to my husband and myself. He was 3 years older than Sara, he was 21 and she was 18. I always worried about a 21-year-old hanging around younger people. I found out the hard way. He was selling drugs...Ecstasy, Cocaine, LSD, marijuana and any other drug he could get his hands on.
After Sara died, he was arrested. We learned from his trial that he had been selling drugs since he was 16 years old. He had sold drugs in school and at school functions. He used every opportunity to sell drugs. He especially liked his pizza delivery job because he could drop off pizza at parties and do a little drug deal too.
On Saturday, the day before Sara died, my husband had found Sara's change purse lying on our front sidewalk. It had marijuana in it. I flushed it, took her car keys away and said she wasn't getting her car back until she drug tested clean for drugs and we would have to go back to counseling. She didn't even seem angry about it. She called her friend, he picked her up in his car and off they went.
She was gone most of the day, but returned home briefly at about 10:00 P.M. with him. At which time she combed her hair, put on a little makeup and said she was going to town to meet some people at Star Bucks. At about midnight she called and said she was now at his house. They were going to play pool and watch videos. His parents and sister were home, as well as another friend. She said not to worry that if it got too late she would just stay there. I was never comfortable with the fact that she would stay at people's homes, but I was confident that the parents were home and there was another friend, too.
I was alone on that Sunday morning. It was Mother's Day, and my husband had gone to visit his mother in Wisconsin. Sara's friend called me at approximately 9:30 that morning. He said that Sara had a "seizure or something" and the paramedics were there. I rushed to his home to find Sara on the floor unconscious. The paramedics asked if Sara was ill, did she have a history of seizures or was she on any medication. No was the answer to all three questions. The first thing that popped into my head was drugs. The paramedics and myself asked the young man if she had taken anything and if so what it was. He was asked this question several times, always with the same answer, "I don't know."
We later found out that not only did he know what she had taken, but even after she had taken Ecstasy on her own he had crushed up 4 more pills and put them in her water in an attempted date rape.
Sara was taken to the emergency room. I couldn't see her at first because they were trying to work on her. A nurse told me, however, that her temperature was 108 degrees. I thought that she must have some horrible infection or illness. I knew nothing at that time about Ecstasy.
The first time I was allowed to see her was a shock. She had tubes coming out all over. They had her on a respirator to keep her breathing. She was just starring up in space. I talked to her and told her we loved her, pleading for her to come back to us. It was then that I noticed a tear rolling down her cheek. I also noticed on the monitor that the blood pressure had risen to almost normal. I wiped the tear from her cheek and kept talking to her. Her blood pressure dropped again and I had to leave.
The second time I was allowed to see her I noticed that there was a clear canister behind her. It was filling with blood. I asked where the blood was coming from. It was from her stomach. She was bleeding at every needle puncture. They even had to put a small sandbag on the place that they put a tube into her. It was bleeding around it. She had cut her lip when she had a seizure and this too continued to bleed.
The nurses told me to talk to her again. They too had noticed that her blood pressure had stabilized a bit when I spoke to her. They felt that she heard me, and they too had noticed the tear. I talked to her constantly telling her we loved her and to fight. Another tear rolled down her check. I prayed she could hear me.
My husband had been called and arrived at the hospital about 3:00. Sara's organs had started to shut down. They moved her from the emergency room to the intensive care unit. Her liver and kidneys were shutting down. A cardiologist saw her. Her heart was giving out too. She didn't have long to live. We were ushered for the last time into her room. There was no hope. I was shocked to see that they had put tape over her eyes. I just couldn't believe this was happening. She was so alive and full of life the day before and now... She died 5½ hours after she entered the hospital.
The police had found the drugs hidden in the friend's house, but it was too late. She was gone.
The hospital is what haunts me most. Seeing those eyes that once sparkled with happiness starring up...no life in them and all the tubes and blood. I had to leave her just lying there, all alone. No more noise from the machine helping her breath, no movement.
This isn't just a story about my child, this has happened to others. It can happen to your child. These children and young adults are not bad kids. They can have good grades, be active in school activities and sports, and come from wonderful families that support and care for them. I learned at a DEA Convention that I attended that it's the achievers and those that want to succeed that are more likely to use Ecstasy. Those that haven't used drugs before are also more likely to try it.
These are kids that are just trying to grow up and get on with life...find out what they want to do for a living, but at some time, for some reason they may choose to try Ecstasy. They may just be at a vulnerable time in their life or just trying to party. Whatever the reason, they are at risk.
We need people to understand that this drug is dangerous. The new laws help to send that message. They need to know that if you don't die from Ecstasy, your life may be changed forever because of the effects it can have on the body. Recent research has shown that Ecstasy causes brain damage...actual holes in the brain. It can cause Parkinson Disease type symptoms, and it definitely causes depression. It can cause liver and kidney damage, due to the high body temperature caused by the Ecstasy.
Since Sara's death I've had a variety of kids in and out of my home. Some of the kids have used Ecstasy and stopped using it and some never did use it. The thing they all have in common is that they ALL know where to get it. It's in the schools being passed around; it's used at proms and other school functions. It's used at Rave parties and at clubs. It can be used in your homes too.
We need to educate the kids, the parents, the educators and the community. We need to use our new laws to stop the Rave promoters and club owners from enticing our children to use this drug. We need to keep communication open between the children, parents, educators, law enforcement and prevention and treatment groups. I feel that education and open communication is essential in helping our young people. Don't be afraid to acknowledge that this drug IS in our community and IS used by our children, and can be used by your children too.
Children and young people are overdosing on Ecstasy. Yet the kids keep saying that the statistics are wrong, Ecstasy isn't harmful. I keep reading about friends dumping bodies back at the parents' home or even leaving them at the entrance of emergency rooms so they can get care. Remember these friends are probably using something too and don't make wise choices and don't want to get caught.
I met one young man, about a year ago, who no longer had short term memory, had to be on antidepressants, maybe for the rest of his life, and had developed a speech impediment because of the affects of Ecstasy on his brain...still not harmful. I just heard a few weeks ago on the nightly news that the Ecstasy use is still rising. I heard just last week about another 16-year-old girl who went to a rock concert, took what she thought was Ecstasy that a friend had bought for her...the girl died. In this instance the friend actually took her back to the friends' home, told her parent's that she was drunk. The friends' parents put her to bed, the next morning she was dead. The friends knew she was extremely sick, she had stopped breathing and yet they didn't get her help. The parents of the friend didn't call the paramedics and the girl had been in obvious trouble. Parents need to be more aware and do the responsible thing. If your child or anyone else's child is under the influence of any thing and not well and is in YOUR home...do the responsible thing...call 9ll.
There was almost no information or statistics about Ecstasy when Sara died. Kids really thought it was safe and fun. Since Sara's death there have been new laws established, more statistics about its dangers and even more deaths from it. It's so important to acknowledge that this drug IS NOT safe. Young people can have long-term disabilities and depression and yes even die.
It's not always the stereotypical drug user that uses this drug. They don't all look like club or rave kids. I know that in our communities they use this drug in private homes, apartments and in small groups. It's used during school hours, after school and on the weekends.
The kids that use this drug are not bad kids; they're great kids that make poor choices. They just may not be educated enough to know how bad Ecstasy is, or mature enough to say no. Please help to keep them safe.
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