For those who don’t know us: When Dale and I married, he had Michael (4) and Travis (1.5) and I had Stephanie (7). We have never liked nor used the word “step” when speaking about our kids. They are our kids and we love them equally.
Stephanie died on April 11, 2003 at 2:48 pm. at the age of 27. Actually I believe she was gone before then. We had the respirator turned off at 2:30 and her heart quit beating at 2:48. I find it very comforting to have been able to be with her when her heart began beating as well as when it stopped. This is the story of my daughter’s struggle with addiction to prescription pain pills.
Stephanie had always suffered with her menstrual periods. At age 18 she had her first surgery for endometriosis, one of many, and was prescribed Vicodin. The doctor at that time told us that she would probably never be able to have children due to the endometriosis. A couple of years later she had another surgery for the same thing and was prescribed Vicodin. On April 1, 1997 she blessed us with our granddaughter, Rebecca Lee. Rebecca was born via emergency c-section and again, Stephanie was prescribed Vicodin. (Let me add here that in the summer before her senior year in high school, Stephanie had a bad case of mono that affected her liver.) When Rebecca was 5 weeks old, Stephanie had to have gall bladder surgery. Vicodin was once again prescribed. In 1998-1999 Stephanie had 2 more surgeries for endometriosis, and was given Vicodin each time. It was during ’98-’99 she started seeing a dr. in Webster that was nothing more than a legalized drug pusher. He would give you any pill you wanted as long as you got steroid joint injections. I’m not sure how long she saw this dr. since she was an adult and I didn’t monitor her life. (this doctor has since been shut down!!) In 2001 she had a total hysterectomy due to the severity of the endometriosis. Vicodin once again. By this time she was stealing pills from anyone she could, it didn’t matter who it was. Steph went to work for a doctor’s office at one point and got fired from there for stealing medication. At the time she told me a different reason but I found out the truth after her death. She got caught forging prescriptions for pain pills and I talked the doctor out of filing charges. (maybe I should’ve let her go to jail….things might’ve turned out differently?) She stole money out of our bank account, for drugs. She sold a lot of her things, for drugs. There is really no telling what all she did for the drugs. At some point a person doesn’t care about anything but the drugs. About 2 weeks before her death she started getting “sick”. She was vomiting a lot and having severe stomach pains. At the time she had a boyfriend who was supplying her with drugs (found this out when she was dying in the hospital). Steph was going to school and not working so had no insurance. On Tuesday, April 8, 2003 I went in her room to see if she felt like getting up for school. I told her to sit up and “get her bearings” since she had been sick and hadn’t been eating. Then I went into Rebecca’s room to get her up. When I went back in to check on Steph, she was sitting up in bed, staring straight ahead, scratching her arm. She couldn’t talk and didn’t seem to see me. I called 911 and they were there within minutes. The first thing the paramedic asked me was if she had been taking Tylenol. It didn’t snap with me at the time about the pain pills having Tylenol in them. They got her to the hospital and Rebecca and I followed. When we were able to see her, she was still not lucid. The nurse told us her blood sugar was way, way off and that was what was causing her to act like she was. They finally stabilized her sugar and she was able to talk to us. The doctors were doing blood work to see what all was in her system. At her age, 27, the doctor’s weren’t supposed to “share” their findings but hers wanted us to know what we were dealing with. She had many different drugs in her system, chief among them was hydrocodone which is what is in Vicodin. Let me stop a minute and say that Vicodin, and other pain pills like it, have Tylenol in them along with the narcotic. Our liver can’t metabolize Tylenol very fast so when a person takes a lot of it, it builds up “poison” in your system. This is what had happened to Stephanie. And on top of that, her liver was already compromised due to the mono in high school. Ok, back to the hospital….The doctor’s tried giving Steph charcoal and other stuff to try and neutralize the effects of the Tylenol but nothing was working. At this point, Steph was still awake and able to talk to us. On Wednesday morning we got to the hospital to find that Steph had been moved to ICU. She was still awake but not doing well at all. The doctor informed us that he was trying to get her into Methodist Hospital in Houston in hopes of getting a liver transplant. We stayed with her until the ambulance got there to transport her to Methodist. The doctor gave her some phenergan for her nausea and in hopes of lightly sedating her for the ambulance ride. We get to Methodist and found her asleep from the effects of the phenergan. Her nurse, who was truly a saint!, told us that Steph would probably sleep the rest of the day. We met with the transplant team and were told that in the case of drugs, a transplant was much harder to get approval. I asked that doesn’t having a small child help her chances at all?? The doctor’s said it would depend on the opinion of the entire team. We stayed with Steph until pretty late that night, then went home to rest. On Thursday morning we got there bright and early, as usual, and Steph was still “out of it”. Every now and then she would moan and act like she was hurting. I would talk to her, stroke her head and cheek, and try to comfort her. After a few minutes she would calm down. At about 10:00 am that Thursday morning, as her daddy and I stood on either side of her bed, she turned first to her daddy and opened her eyes and just stared at him. He talked to her for a few minutes then she turned her head towards me. I looked into her eyes and talked to her for several minutes. She then closed her eyes and “went back to sleep”. We went over and sat down. Within just a few minutes of sitting down, she became very agitated and alarms started going off. Nurses ran in and the room went into a frenzy! We were told she was having trouble breathing so they made us leave so they could put her on a ventilator. Standing out in the hall, I almost collapsed. I think this was the first time I really realized how serious and dire her condition really was. After they got her stabilized on the ventilator, we went back in her room. Standing beside my daughter’s bed and seeing her on a respirator was quite a shock to me. Her nurse came in and said they were going to have to give her some sedation so she would quit biting the tubing. All throughout this time family had been there with her daddy and I. We didn’t let anyone bring Rebecca up. I didn’t want her to see her mommy like that. It was bad enough that she saw her the morning the ambulance came. On Friday morning when we got to the hospital Steph wasn’t in her room. Her nurse told us that when she tried to stop the ventilator, Steph “crashed”. She had been taken for a second CT scan. The scan showed that her brain was swelling. She was left on the respirator. I asked about her chances and was told that they were very slim. I told them that Steph had said she did NOT want to ever be kept alive on a machine. See, just 3 weeks before Stephanie died, my daddy died. He had been sick with pneumonia. He had been put on the respirator and that is when we talked about being kept alive by machines. Anyway, the technician came in to do an eeg, which detects brain activity. I watched her face and the machine and knew it wasn’t good. Her doctor came in and did some tests. (he drew blood on her foot when he was checking for response to pain stimuli) Her nurse got really upset about that but I told her I think he just wanted a response so badly, he did it a little too hard. We talked to her doctors and told them we wanted her off the machines. So, at 2:30 pm on April 11, 2003, the machines were off. I stood at her bedside and just loved on my baby. I had my ear on her chest, listening to her heart beat. I heard it slow down, then stop at 2:48 pm. After that, everyone in the room prayed and sang a hymn. I can’t even remember what we sang but I remember it was beautiful! Stephanie was a born again believer so I know she is in heaven with Jesus. I can’t wait to see her again! When we went to my sisters to pick up Rebecca, I took Becca out to the hammock and had her lay down with me so we could “talk”. I didn’t even get a chance to tell her about her mommy “going home to Jesus”. She told me!! Amazing! On July 22, 2003 Dale and I adopted Rebecca as our own! When Rebecca was born Stephanie gave her my middle name, Lee. We talked to Rebecca about changing her middle name to add her mommy’s. So, Rebecca Lee is now Rebecca Leeann. She is so much like her momma!! Looks and acts like her! God has truly blessed us with Rebecca. She had always lived with us so there was no having to get used to a new place. She had just turned 6 when Steph died so she doesn’t remember a lot about her. Not too long ago she told me that she couldn’t remember what Stephanie’s voice sounded like! I told her that it’s ok to forget things like that. We have tons of pictures around so she will always know what her mommy looked like. God is good, all the time! We don’t always understand why He allows certain things to happen. And I’m alright with that! He knows best. My favorite verse is Philippians 4:13….”I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!” He certainly gave it to us during those dark days!!
Praise His holy name!!!
My feelings are that when Dale and I were standing on each side of Stephanie’s bed and she took turns looking at us, she was telling us goodbye. She couldn’t talk but her eyes just bore into ours! My personal opinion is that she went home to Jesus sometime late Thursday. But, it really isn’t important is it? She’s there and I will get to see her some day! When a mother loses a child, a piece of her heart goes with that child. My heart will be whole when I get to heaven!
10/1/1975 – 4/11/2003