Tag Archives: death

5 Year Old Dies Of Drug Overdose

17 Apr

Via Huffington Post:

Kimber Michelle Brown, 5-Year-Old, Dies From Cold Medicine Overdose

Medical examiners in La Plata County in southwest Colorado have ruled that Kimber Michelle Brown, a 5-year-old girl who died in February, had toxic levels of two over-the-counter medications in her system at the time of her death, the Associated Press reports.

A toxicology report on Brown found that the kindergartner had two-and-half times the maximum recommended dose of dextromethorphan — the active ingredient in Robitussin, Vicks and many other over-the-counter cold medications — in addition to high levels of the anti-allergy medicine Cetirizine.

“In my opinion, the combination of these drugs — which were the ingredients of the over-the-counter medications with which Kimber was being treated — caused her death,” La Plata County Coroner Dr. Carol Huser wrote in an autopsy reported obtained by the Durango Herald.

Brown was staying with her grandmother, 59-year-old Linda Sheets, in early February when she began exhibiting flu-like symptoms, a sheriff’s department spokesman told the Herald. Huser told the paper that on the evening before her death on Sunday, Feb. 12, the girl had been complaining of leg pain, cramps and muscle spasms that would indicate that she had toxic levels of medication in her system. Investigators are unsure whether Sheets accidentally gave her granddaughter too much medicine or if the girl ingested the substances after finding them on the counter, where they were in reach.
An investigation is ongoing.

According KWGN-TV, the death is currently being treated as an accident.

Read the Durango Herald‘s full report on Brown’s death and herobituary for more on this story.

Notes On Loss and Grief

5 Apr

Today marks the one year anniversary of the death of my partner and best friend, Wil Curry.

His death was sudden and unexpected. He was biking late at night to my apartment, and was hit by a car while crossing an intersection. I realized he was over an hour late, and my room mate informed me she had driven by a bad accident near his route. I called up his room mates and we had to go search for his body.

It sucked.
It really fucking sucked.

In the past 14 months, I have lost 5 people. My grandfather was first, followed by Wil, a close coworker named John, and two aunts. (And a pet snake, because at this point, why the hell not?) The grief induced by Wil’s death was a completely novel experience for me. And because I am a complete science dork, I began recording my observations of grief. In journals, notebooks, margins of textbooks, scraps of paper. Whenever a thought struck me, I had to write it down. As time progressed, I watched several of my friends go through losing close friends and family members, and continued taking notes.

So now, one year later, I give you a somewhat refined version of my notes on grief. This didn’t turn out as polished and cohesive as I wanted it to be, but it’s good enough for now.

1) There Are Only Two Appropriate Things To Say To A Grieving Person

(And an infinite amount of inappropriate things)

I cannot emphasize this enough.
People usually have no idea what to say to a grieving person, which often results in them saying a lot of inappropriate things. Before this experience, I was the same way. I had no idea what to say to a grieving person, because I had no idea what they were going through. After Wil’s death, I was on the other side of the scenario, and was truely appalled at how many inappropriate comments I received. Despite the fact they were all said with good  intentions, they were still incredibly hurtful.
The absolute worse one was when a lady told me:
He died because heaven needed more angels.”

I nearly punched her.
That’s something you say to a 5 year old after they accidentally stepped on their pet hamster, not a grown woman whose lost her partner. Knowing she meant well, I held my temper, immediately left, and screamed in my car the entire drive home.

There are only 2 appropriate things you can say to a grieving person:
1. I’m so sorry for your loss.
2. Let me know if there is anything I can do.
That’s it.
If you go any further, you run the risk of offending someone.
Say those two lines, hug them, and shut up.

2) Every Loss Is Different

So many people come up to me and say, “Oh, I know exactly what you’re going through. I lost my grandpa/uncle/aunt/distant cousin last year.”
I had lost my grandfather 3 months before I lost Wil. Losing a grandfather is completely different than losing a partner. Losing a partner is completely different than losing a child. Losing a child is completely different than losing a friend. Losing a friend is completely different than losing a parent.
Losing someone suddenly and unexpectedly is completely different than watching them struggle through a long and painful disease.
Every loss is different, and it is not fair to compare the two.
You simply can’t.
And for the love of god, don’t even try. If one of my friends lost their kid, I would never compare it Wil’s death, especially to their face. I wouldn’t even be able to fathom such a loss. Hell, even if my absolute closest friend lost her partner, I wouldn’t even try to compare it to Wil’s death, because every loss is different. I understand a lot of people say things like this because they’re trying to reach out and form a connection. And in a rational world, this would make sense. But grief isn’t rational.
And when grieving people are still in shock from losing someone, they honestly don’t give a damn about who you lost. They’re still in shock about their loss, and have yet to process it.

3) Everyone Grieves Differently. Don’t Judge.

Just like every loss is different, everyone has their own way of handling grief. Don’t judge. We often see in movies how some grieving character will isolate themselves from everyone else. Some people do this. But I was surprised to discover that I needed to be around people. I saw this over and over in people who lost someone close. I’m a fairly social person, but I do highly value my alone time. But it was completely different when I was grieving. It wasn’t that I wanted to be with people. I needed to be with people. I couldn’t handle being alone, not even for an hour, and actively sought out people to hang out with.

Grief also made me very, very reserved. I’m usually a very open and happy person, full of hugs and sarcasm. But I also hate crying in front of people, and as a result avoided all physical contact, like hugs, in order to keep from crying. As a result, I came across as very cold to a lot of people who didn’t know me. Some thought that my way of grieving was odd, or that I didn’t care about Wil all that much.
And in turn, I was confused as to why so many people posted on his facebook wall, telling him how much they missed him.
It’s simply not how I grieve, because I don’t see the point in talking to dead people as if they’re still alive. But it’s how others grieve, and to each their own. I don’t think less of them if that is how they have to express their grief.
Because when it comes to grief, everyone has their own way. Don’t judge someone simply because their way is different.

4) Keep Your Beliefs To Yourself

I’m not a particularly religious person. I’m joke that I’m a part-time Buddhist, somewhat like those Christians only go to church on Christmas and Easter. My spiritual beliefs are deeply private and I rarely talk about them, because they instruct me how to live my life, not how to run other people’s lives. At one point or another, all religions bring up the topic of death, which makes death painfully prone to awkward situations. Again, this goes back to rule #1: Unless you know, without any shadow of a doubt, 100%, that the person is of a praying faith, don’t say “I’m praying for you, You’re in my thoughts and prayers, The Lord works in mysterious ways, etc.
In fact, even if you know they’re religious, don’t even say it. Death can have a huge impact on a person’s spiritual beliefs. It may drive them to seek solace in their faith, or it may cause them to question it. Either way, it’s none of your business.
I repeat: Let them know you are sorry for their loss, and let them know you are there for them if they need it. This is all you need to say.
After a recent memorial service for a friend’s father, she and I got on the topic of of inappropriate things people say to those in grief. After he died, someone visited her family and walked into the back yard (which her father lovingly tended to for decades) and declared that she felt his presence there.
This is a huge fucking no-no.
Don’t do this.
Just don’t.

On the other end of the spectrum, if the person grieving talks about how they feel the deceased’s spirit in some way, and you don’t particularly believe in spirits, keep your mouth shut. Smile, nod, hug them if you want. Grief is no time for a theological debate. If the funeral is in a church or religious institution that teaches things that offend you or conflict with your own beliefs, get over it. Set aside your own beliefs and go to the funeral. Which brings us to our next rule:

5) Go To The Funeral/Memorial Service/Celebration of Life/Whatever

Seriously. Just go. Even if you didn’t know the deceased.
You see, funerals (and memorial services, wakes, celebrations of life, etc) aren’t actually for the deceased at all. They exist for the living. They are a way for people to come together, express their grief, and find solace in each other. And when a friend of yours is grieving, they need support. I hardly knew anyone at Wil’s funeral. There were a few people I knew through him, and a few of my family members, with whom I am not particularly close. None of my closest friends attended. Words cannot describe how devastating that was, because that was when I needed my friends the most.
Ever since, I’ve made it a point to attend funerals, even if I didn’t know the deceased. I’m not there to remember the deceased. I’m there to support my grieving friend. Always go, no matter what.
I guarantee they will appreciate it, because:

6) Grieving People Are Vulnerable.

 A few weeks after Wil died, I went to a friend’s house for a movie night. We were watching Doctor Who (because it’s awesome) and he insisted that we watch an episode titled “Father’s Day,” where one of the characters goes back in time and witnesses her father being hit and killed by a car (repeatedly). It was a very well-written and emotionally powerful episode. However, since weeks earlier Wil had been hit and killed by a car, it was also a really shitty episode for me to watch, and I ran out of the house in tears. Grieving people are emotionally and mentally vulnerable. And while that incident was just due to sheer thoughtlessness, there are plenty of bastards out there who will jump at the chance to take advantage of the grief-stricken.
Tim Minchin eloquently illumintated the issue: “By the way, why do we think it’s okay for people to pretend they can talk to the dead? Isn’t that totally fucked in the head? Lying to some poor woman whose child has died and telling her you’re in touch with the other side; I think that’s fundamentally sick.”
I noticed this in numerous ways, the worse of which was when I passed out on a couch and was sexually assaulted. Wil’s death was just as I was prepping to take my finals and start my clinical rotations. I threw myself into school, and within a month was exhausted in every way. Emotionally, mentally, physically. Adamantly against driving while tired, I crashed on a couch of a couple I used to live with, where I was later sexually assaulted by a mutual friend. It permanently destroy one friendship, and damaged several others.
And that was rock bottom. My entire world had been shattered with Wil’s death, immense grief, PTSD, the stress of finishing my finals, preparing for my clinicals, prepping for certification, and betrayal. As the dynamic of so many friendships changed, I gained new perspective on friendship, begrudgingly admitting to myself that yes, sometimes people are jerks who will try to take advantage of your vulnerable state. But for every jerk I came across, there were dozens and dozens of good and kind people in my life. It’s hard to be cynical when faced with those numbers.

7) Don’t Fight The Grieving Process

I mentioned earlier how I would refuse hugs from people because I hated crying in front of people. You get lysozyme and IgA all over your face and it’s super gross. A stubborn part of me refused to do so because I believed that I had to be strong. And while I am by nature the kind of person who likes to get things done first and then emotionally process them later, it wasn’t until 11 months later did I realize I wasn’t being strong at all. All I was doing was trying to avoid my grief, and in the end such action only prolonged it.
I was also surprised to discover that many people think the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – happens in that order, one at a time. It doesn’t. Those steps can occur in any order, simultaneously, or a person may not even experience one of them.
I also learned that grief is so emotionally draining that you have to take breaks. A few days after the death of her mother, my professor and her sister went to an amusement park, just because they needed the break and distraction. It’s healthy to take a break and seek distraction. Just remember that grief is something that eventually you’ll have to work through and process. Grief will never fully go away; It’s something that you always live with. But over time, it fades and becomes bearable. But whether you like it or not, it is something you eventually have to process and work through.

Skin Cell Gun Rocks My Damn Socks Off

13 Mar

Watch it. Watch it now! It’s incredible, and will hopefully save countless lives.

Taking Comfort

12 Mar

I love a good piece of inspirational writing. This past year has brought an immense amount of difficult change into my life. For the first time in my life, I am facing serious unemployment. Not the “Oh, I left my job so I can focus more on school” kind of unemployment, but the “I’ve just graduated and need to start a new career where I am competing against applicants much more qualified than I am, and how the hell do I get experience when all the jobs require previous experience” kind of unemployment. I have an unpleasant amount school debt. I’ve endured multiple deaths, including that of my amazing boyfriend, my favorite grandfather, a wonderful coworker, a beautiful aunt, and my super awesome red tailed boa (Rest in peace, Mr. Cupcake). I may potentially move to a new city, where I know no one and will have to endure -40F temperatures.

So yeah, waking up to a great cup of coffee and this beautiful piece of inspirational writing by comedy writer Sarah May Bates was a wonderful way to start my day. I hope it brightens your day as well.


by Sarah May Bates

We can all take comfort in the simple knowledge we have. Sometimes we just have to allow ourselves to. It’s a part of being self-protective, self-sufficient, proactive: to get wrapped up in solving things and controlling or predicting the outcome of our lives. To know too much about people and how they work can sometimes help us, but more often, it drives us a bit mad. A mantra of sorts that can help you to let go of the things you can’t but want to control is simply “take comfort”. Take comfort in your self, your awareness, and that which is concrete.

Whether it’s a first date you’re preparing for and you feel yourself already worried about if the relationship one day ends, or you’re obsessed with the idea that something you said wasn’t right, take comfort in the facts and let it go. When I begin to obsess about the “what-ifs” of a situation, when I feel I can see something on the horizon or I’ve been able to sense something through subtle cues, I know I cannot act on that information, and in order to get to the right place, meaning a place where I’m not going in circles, I have to rely on the simple truths. A simple truth being: “I trust this person.” “I will figure out what to do if X scenario happens.” “I am kind and loving, and human.” Or “I want to enjoy this, regardless of the future, which I cannot know.”

You can hold tight to facts or truths that you know, despite the buzzing “what-ifs” that fly around you. In a way, you can walk forward stronger and more assured because you are putting faith in yourself being okay with any outcome. You can’t control people or what they do, and you can’t make everything happen perfectly in life. You can however, assure that you feel okay and peaceful throughout all of it.

Take comfort in the knowledge that you will be okay. No matter what. You are strong, you will take care of yourself and heal, and you will grow stronger every day. It’s a simple mantra, but I offer it with the hopes that it works for you too.
Happy Monday, love to you all.

– xox Sarah


You can read the original here, as well as explore more of Hello Giggles, a wonderful website for women.

End Of Life Decisions

9 Mar

The following was written by Kristian Foden-Vencil and presented by NPR’s health blog Shots. Click the headline if you wish to read the original article, as well as listen to an audio version of the story. I consider this to be one of the most important issues in American health care today, especially with our aging population.

Oregon Emphasizes Choices At The End Of Life

It turns out Americans facing death want something they also want in life: choice.

two-page form created in Oregon is providing insight into how people want to be cared for at the end of their lives. And the so-called POLST form — short for Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment — offers far more detailed options than a simple “do not resuscitate” directive does.

Terri Schmidt, an emergency room doctor at Oregon Health and Science University, remembers the day an elderly man with congestive heart failure came into the hospital from a nursing home. The man didn’t have a form, so, by law, Schmidt had to provide all the medical care possible.

“I intubated the man. I did very aggressive things. It didn’t feel right at the time,” says Schmidt. “There was just this sense in my mind that this is a 92-year-old very elderly person with bad heart failure. And about 15 minutes later, when I was able to get a hold of the family, they said, ‘You did what? We talked about this! He didn’t want it. We had a big conversation in his room about a week ago.’ ”

That’s a situation Helen Hobbs, 93, is looking to prevent. She has filled out a form, and her doctor signed it, so it’s legally enforceable.

She likes having different options. “I did want antibiotics in case of infection,” says Hobbs, who lives in an assisted living facility in Lake Oswego. “I don’t want CPR if I’m in cardiac arrest. I don’t want to be tied down with tubes. You know, there’s no point in prolonging it.”

Administrators at her senior residence advised Hobbs to keep her POLST form in a plastic tube in her freezer, so EMTs will know where to find it. Other nursing homes tell residents to keep their forms under the sink or on the fridge. It’s not exactly a perfect system.

Oregon started using the POLST form widely in the mid-1990s. All told, 14 states have adopted it, and 20 more are considering it.

Since 2009, the forms in Oregon have been entered into a statewide database. Doctors there can go online to see whether a patient has one.

And the database is beginning to reveal some interesting information about people’s choices, according to Dr. Susan Tolle of the Oregon Center for Ethics in Health Care. “We have really learned that this is not a black and white process,” Tolle says. “Less than 10 percent of people wanted to refuse all treatment. A majority want some things and not other things.”

Tolle avoids the topic of whether these detailed end-of-life instructions save money. She’s wary of starting another debate about death panels. But the database has allowed the state to quantify the policy by some measures.

“What we found was that if people marked ‘comfort measures only’ and ‘do not resuscitate’ and did not want to go back to the hospital, there was a 67 percent reduction in life-sustaining treatments, primarily hospitalization and emergency room visits,” says Tolle.

Christian Brugger is a professor of moral theology at the Saint John Vianney Seminary in Denver. He wants to make sure the elderly do not feel like they have to have one of these forms.

“I’ve heard often that elderly patients can feel pressured by the medical community or by their family not to be a burden,” says Brugger. “I think those kinds of pressures are very hard to calculate. And we want to be very careful that we don’t put those kinds of pressures on the elderly.”

Brugger says giving someone a durable power of attorney is a better solution to this delicate issue.

This story by Kristian Foden-Vencil is part of a reporting partnership that includes Oregon Public Broadcasting, NPR and Kaiser Health News.