On December 5, 2010 my world changed in a way that I never would have imagined. That Sunday morning was like any other normal Sunday. I got up, retrieved the newspaper from the driveway and sat down at the kitchen table to read the paper. My youngest son, Noah, was lying on the couch watching television. My oldest son, Connor, true to teenage form, was still in bed. Around noon, I thought to myself, “Is this boy ever going to get up?” The answer to that question was my worst nightmare. I went into Connor’s bedroom to wake him, and found his lifeless body. My healthy, happy, smart, and handsome 13 year old baby was dead. Why? Why did this happen to me, to him, to our family? For the next several hours my house was filled with strangers as I sat in disbelief and shock.
Let me back track and tell you a little bit about my son. Connor was such an amazing baby! He rarely cried, and was always happy and content. Friends and family were continually commenting on what a good natured little boy he was, and how lucky I was. He had these huge brown eyes and tons of thick black hair. He would spend hours upon hours in the garage with his dad working on cars. When he was two, he knew the name of every tool you could find in the garage. He always had a screwdriver in his hand, much to the dismay of his grandparents who were always worried that he was going to hurt himself with it.
Connor loved making friends, and meeting new people. I remember the day he started Kindergarten. I expected him to be scared and want me to walk him into class. Not Connor. He jumped out of the car with a, “See ya, Mom,” and was off. I had to chase him down to take his picture. He had a huge heart and loved everyone. At Connor’s first parent teacher conference his teacher told me about Max, a little boy in Connor’s class who was confined to a wheelchair. Every morning Connor would make sure that Max had everything he needed for class. He would get his books for him, and anything else he needed during the day. This is who Connor was to the core. He hated to see people hurt or struggling. I can recall many times throughout Connor’s short life that he mentioned concern for a friend who, in some way or another, was having difficulties.
Connor started playing sports at a very young age. When he was three, he wanted so badly to play soccer, but he was just shy of the age requirement of four. Since he was only a month away from his fourth birthday, I signed him up, hoping that no one would notice he wasn’t quite old enough. And it worked! He continued to play soccer through 4th grade. He also participated in basketball, lacrosse, and wrestling. Connor’s true passion, however, was snowboarding and skateboarding. He signed up for the ski program in 3rd grade, and fell in love with snowboarding the very first day! The Saturday after his first time up on the mountain he asked if I would take him to Bywater Park so he could practice. He strapped his snowboard on at the top of the hill and off he went. In amazement I said, “Wow, Connor, you learned that in only one lesson?” His response was, “No. All they taught us was how to strap into our board and get on and off the lift.” He was a natural, and he LOVED it! At any given time, you could find him in our front room, strapped into his snowboard, practicing tricks. He would also do this with his skateboard. He would watch instructional videos online, and practice for hours, until he had mastered the trick he wanted.
Connor also loved to fish. Every time he went to visit his grandpa, he would ask if they could go fishing. Once, on a family camping trip, his uncle Tim took the kids fishing, and Connor returned with a Trout! Tim fired up the grill to prepare the fish so we could eat it, while Connor stood next to him in anticipation. He was so excited! After standing there for a few minutes he turned to Tim and said, “Uncle Tim, when is the fish going to turn into a Salmon?” Connor loved seafood. He would always get bewildered looks from waiters when he would order oysters, sashimi or any other type of seafood. Truth be told, I think he liked seeing the look on their faces.
Connor was a normal teenager. He loved to hang out with friends, and have fun. The day before he died was no different than any other. He had spent the day at home getting his Saturday chores done so he could spend time with his friends. He went with me to rent some videos, and then headed to the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center where he played basketball, and went ice skating. He then went to a friend’s house where he had dinner, and returned home at 9:30 pm. I was in the middle of a movie when he came in, so he sat down for an hour and watched it with me. Knowing teenagers, I always made Connor sit and talk to me when he came home, and did the “smell test” to see if he smelled of alcohol or smoke. Connor seemed perfectly normal. At 10:30 he said he was tired and going to bed. The rest of the story is a puzzle that has been pieced together by talking to friends, as well as from the police investigation. Connor went to his room and sent text messages to his friends until about 1:30 am. At that time, he told his friend that he had a headache and was going to take a couple of pills and go to bed. The pills he took were prescription Oxycodone. I know Connor had no idea that taking those pills would result in his death. Through the investigation we found out that he had taken these pills from a friend’s house. Apparently, the pills (along with several other prescriptions) had been sitting out in the open on a kitchen counter.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) 48 million Americans age 12 and older have taken a prescription pain reliever, tranquilizer, stimulant, or sedative for nonmedical purposes. This represents approximately 20% of the U.S. population. Although there isn’t a definitive reason for the increase in prescription drug abuse, it is likely that accessibility is a contributing factor. It is our responsibility to discard unused prescription pain pills and to securely lock up any current prescriptions. According to the Utah Department of Health, more people die every year in Utah from prescription drug overdose than from car accidents. In the 2005-2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Utah ranks fourth in the nation for having the highest reported nonmedical use of painkillers. We must do everything we can to limit the accessibility of these drugs. It may not be your child who abuses prescription pain pills, but if they are accessible in your home, it might be one of their friends who end up taking them. I never would have imagined that Connor would be the one to do something so careless as to take Oxycodone recreationally.
Please help me prevent this from happening to your child or someone else’s child by cleaning out your medicine cabinets, locking up prescription pain medications, and encouraging your friends and family to do the same. It is my hope that by talking about this (follow my blog at loveyadubya.com)I can prevent it from happening to someone else.