Mother’s story tells grief of child’s addiction

Myra Fitzgerald of Warren spoke to me recently about her daughter’s experience with drugs.

We met her daughter, Megan, in 2011 when she and a friend helped serve and clean up after a 12th Night party we held. She did a good job and enjoyed it so much, she volunteered to come back next year for the same party.

Megan was a sophomore in high school, attractive, pleasant and effective. We were glad to have her the next year and tried to reach her for a third year, but were unable to get in touch with her.

We did not know of her serious problem until her mother recently gave a talk at First Presbyterian Church of Warren as part of a lecture series planned to raise awareness about the opioid epidemic. It was then that we learned that Megan had died in 2015 as a result of a heroin overdose.

Mrs. Fitzgerald told us of the events that led to her daughter’s death. She spoke simply, holding back tears sometimes, but with clarity, not sparing painful details.

She described Megan as sociable, a joiner, loving, calm, friendly, a follower. “People loved her.” She worked at a beauty salon and had repeat customers who were happy with her work.

But she was a functional addict, and looking back, Mrs. Fitzgerald regretted that she had not recognized symptoms of trouble.

One was a behavioral change in Megan. She went from being a cheerful, helpful daughter to one who “snapped at” her mother. She had a different relationship with her dog. She lost 50 pounds in three months. She lost hair. She was always napping.

Megan’s friends stopped running around with her. Her only “friend” was her boyfriend. He was providing her drugs for the money she gave him. She was having trouble keeping up with her car payments and asked for small loans, always with a plausible excuse.

The first solid evidence Fitzgerald had of her daughter’s problem was a spoon and needle she found in Megan’s dresser drawer as she was putting away laundry. She did not want to believe what they seemed to suggest.

She showed them to Megan’s dad, who was equally concerned. He immediately went to the salon where she worked, brought her home and they confronted her with the evidence. Her parents knew the seriousness of the situation.

After exploring resources, they compelled Megan to go for rehab at Glenbeigh Rehabilitation Hospital, affiliated with Cleveland Clinic. She stayed only two days there, in detox, which caused diarrhea, vomiting and chills. She phoned home, saying she would walk home clear from Ashtabula County or her boyfriend would pick her up. Her parents came and got her.

Fifteen days later, the Fitzgeralds admitted her to a residential rehab facility in Tennessee. She was there for three months and became a different person again, normal, happy-go-lucky. Megan came out of rehab clean.

“We had high hopes for her,” her mother said. But as she later learned “The drug eats at you all the time — ‘You need me, need me, need me.'” Eventually, Megan had a relapse. Her sister’s pregnancy motivated her to want to quit again. She said to her mother, “Mom, I need help and I need it now.”

But the hospital they went to proved to be ineffective and eventually Megan again took heroin, laced with fentanyl, and died.

“It’s the hardest thing we’ve gone through, David and I. Deep down it still hurts,” Mrs. Fitzgerald said.

My reporting of this experience, I hope, will be an additional stimulus to early action by parents, teachers and youth leaders.

Contact Thomas at