Greg woke up one morning and found his wife slumped over in a chair without a pulse. He later found out that she had two-and-a-half times the lethal limit of fentanyl in her system and may have died of an unintentional overdose.
My wife developed this condition in her leg and hip which resulted into her just going into a lot of pain. She didn’t quite understand why this was happening and she saw many doctors. She was in constant pain. Eventually, she couldn’t put any clothing on her leg. No exposure to wind or sun or anything. When she went to bed at night she slept with her leg over top of the blankets.
She had three surgeries done. They said there was scar tissue; they tried finding the nerve issue to fix and they couldn’t find it. It just sounded like a lot of bullocks to me, but who am I to question them?
In the meantime she started on pain medication—oxycocet, Demerol. She was also on medication for depression. She had no benefit from the surgeries so she went to a pain clinic. She was there for two or three years and she found relief for a couple of hours, but nothing sustained her.
Before starting the pain medication, she began to develop what I would refer to as narcolepsy—she would just fall asleep. One time I was downstairs and I heard this bang and I came running upstairs and she was passed out on the floor in the kitchen.
The pain clinic doctor eventually started her on fentanyl. It started out at 125 micrograms and she changed the patch every three days and went up from there. Then the pain clinic shut down, so of course she couldn’t go and see him. We gave the list to our family doctor and he refilled them.
But she was on all these drugs and she would still be passing out. I didn’t know why. Every time she would go to the hospital, they took blood work. After two or three hours, she would come to. They didn’t have any answers.
She was pretty much homebound, especially in the wintertime because putting clothes on her leg was just too much pain. Christmas dinners and other family gatherings she couldn’t partake in, plus you couldn’t really rely on whether she was going to be awake or sedated. In most instances, I didn’t want to leave her alone.
One time she had crashed out on the floor and the paramedics came. I heard one of them say to the other, “She is just faking it.” I didn’t say anything. I just bit my tongue because I didn’t know what was causing this.
She continued on the fentanyl. She saw a neurologist who immediately said to cut back on her meds, specifically the fentanyl. After this, the passing out seemed to not completely go away, but it was much better. But then all of a sudden, it started back up again.
One day, I woke up and came out of the bedroom and saw laundry hanging on the door frames. I thought she must have done the laundry and fallen asleep. She was sitting on the couch and slumped over and I thought, “Oh God, she’s passed out again.”
I thought, “I will leave her for a bit.” I had breakfast, watched the news and after about an hour I went to wake her up. When I tried waking her, I saw her legs and the mottling of her skin. I checked for her breathing and a pulse. When they were absent, I called 911 right away. I was just hoping I was doing it wrong or that I was missing something.
I got a phone call the next day from the coroner and he said we could not get any findings as to the cause of her death. We would have to wait for the toxicology to come back.
The Monday before Christmas I got a phone call at 8:30 in the morning. It was a police officer. He said, “We’ve found out the cause of your wife’s death, and we have some information we want to share with you. Would you come down to the police station?”
I went down there and kind of got a little bit concerned because the detective took me into this room that he had to unlock—it was an interrogation room.
Before I even sat down I said, “What’s all this about?”
He said, “Well, we just want to ask you some questions about how she took her medication.”
I asked, “Why in this kind of environment?”
He said, “Well, this is our protocol. I will tell you right now, neither you nor your daughter are suspects to anything. You have the right to answer any questions, or if you want to leave right now, you’re free to go. It’s up to you if you want to come back with a lawyer.”
I said no. That’s when he told me that she had died of a fentanyl overdose, with two-and-a-half times the lethal limit in her blood.
Our family doctor called. He found out that she had passed away from the fentanyl because the police called him. He asked, “How do you think that happened? Was she taking more patches than she should have?”
My wife was a registered nurse. She was very careful about medication and even self-medicating. We had Percocets in the house—they did find traces of that drug in her system—which makes me believe she may have taken a pill or two the night before she died. But she was not one for doing that. She just might have been in a lot of pain.
LISTEN TO GREG'S AUDIO