My name is Lynn Tyler. I am here today as a mother, an Emergency Room nurse, and a lifelong resident of Transylvania County. The first time I was here at this church, it was a happy occasion. My oldest daughter Skye was 9 years old and I was here for her first piano recital. The next few times I was here were not happy occasions. I was here as part of a group that I did not want to be a member of. The Compassionate Friends is a support group for parents that have had children die for whatever reason. They meet here on a regular basis.
My beautiful daughter Skye died on Friday, March 20, 2009 from an unintentional oxycodone overdose. She was 26 years old. Skye had battled addiction for a long time. She was addicted to prescription drugs- pain killers. Skye had been in many different treatment programs through the years. The first was an intensive outpatient program in Asheville when she was 15 years old. My grandmother had fractured her leg. She discovered a bottle of Tylenol with codeine missing after Skye had spent the night. Skye had been helping take care of her. I drove Skye back and forth to Asheville 3 evenings a week for 3 months trying to see that she got the help she needed. She went through many other therapists and outpatient treatment programs. I always hoped this time would be it, that she would be healthy and happy.
Skye had periods of time when she wasn’t using drugs. These were good times! She always had a smile. She had an outgoing personality and a caring, giving heart. Skye loved her family, especially her 2 children. Eventually the devastating cycle of addiction would come full circle and she would start using drugs again. I would feel powerless to do anything to help, but desperate to save my daughter!
I tried “tough love”.
One night after working a noon to midnight shift in the ER and watching a 2 year old die related to substance abuse in the home, I went and got my grandchildren. I knew that Skye was using drugs again. I wanted to protect my grandchildren and make Skye realize what she was doing. I told her to contact social services if she wanted her kids back. I watched her become homeless, lose her children, and lose everything else. I tried to encourage her to not give up. I would tell her “you can get your kids back if you just try”. She would try, but addiction always won. I had Skye arrested and put in jail for stealing checks from me. I thought I would rather see her in jail than hurting herself doing drugs. After 3 weeks in jail, Skye was placed on probation and ordered to a long term treatment center in Hickory, NC. I knew this place was going to work. Skye had the incentive of her children coming to live there with her after 6 months. 1 month after she started the program, she called me from the Catawba County jail to come pick her up. When I got there, she was bruised, barefooted and owned nothing but the dirty clothes she was wearing. She ended up spending time in jail instead of treatment for stealing my checks. Skye was in and out of the hospital several times for detox from drugs and psychiatric treatment. Along the way, bipolar and posttraumatic stress disorder was added to her list of diagnosis. This meant more medications. The cycle continued. I felt like I was on a merry-go-round. It sure wasn’t at the fair either!
Skye was scheduled to go to a 6 month rehab in April , 2009. There are long waiting lists for most of these types of programs, unless you have a lot of money. Skye had been on the list since being hospitalized in February from when I had her involuntarily committed for severe depression. Skye came out of the hospital excited about her recovery and finally giving it all to God. After being discharged from the hospital, she seemed on track by attending therapy, going to church, and meetings. She was excited about working toward having her children back and I was very hopeful. On March 19 parenting classes she had been attending to help her get her children ages 3 and 4 back. She was proud of her accomplishment and the certificate she was awarded.
I was very proud of her and had such hope. She had been off drugs since getting out of the hospital a few weeks earlier. The very next afternoon, I spoke with Skye on the phone and noticed her speech was slurred and I realized she was messed up. She wouldn’t tell me where she was and would only admit to being with a friend. I asked her to let me come to get her, but she wouldn’t . She said to me that she was fine and would have her friend to bring her by to see me. “I promise” she said. I told her I loved her and she said, “ I know momma, I love you too”. Skye didn’t come to see me. I continued to call her off and on all afternoon. About 4 hours after speaking to her the last time, my phone rang with the Emergency Room number showing up on the caller id. My friend and coworker Pat asked me if I had talked to Skye. I said I had spoken to her earlier and asked if she was in the ER. Pat said “yes”. My heart sank as I asked if she was ok. All Pat would say is that I need to come there. They offered to send someone to get me if I was alone, but I had someone to take me.
I knew something was terribly wrong. I had made these same kind of calls before and I knew it was bad. The sick feeling in the bottom of my stomach was real. I remember trying to be calm in front of my grandchildren, but wanting to hurry as we were driven to the hospital. I will never forget the feeling of needing to get there to save her! That didn’t happen. I ran into the ER as three of my co-workers met me at the door. All of the calmness was gone as I screamed “where is she”? “Is she ok”? The nurses ,which are also my friends, hugged me as they held me up against the wall to keep me from collapsing into the floor. They ushered me into her room while the children were taken to a break room in the back. There she was. My daughter! Lying on a stretcher with a tube coming out of her mouth. IVs in her bones because they couldn’t find good veins. She wasn’t moving, not breathing, and her eyes were partially open. All I could do was scream and sob her name over and over. As I hugged her, I urinated on myself. I couldn’t help it. I didn’t have any control over the cries that were coming from my broken heart, the primal sounds of a mother that has just lost a child. I sit there with her for hours in that ER room, willing her with all my might to get up. That didn’t work. I was angry at her for dying. I was angry at her friends for not calling 911 when they first noticed her irregular breathing. I was angry at the law enforcement for not arresting the drug dealers that sold her drugs. I was angry at God for letting this happen. I was angry at everyone, including myself for not doing more.
Most of that evening is still a blur to me. I can’t recall all of the friends and family that were in and out to cry with me and offer comfort. The children left with their aunt Taffy. I talked to the police, but remember very little of what was said. My friend Shelba, a nurse on duty, led me by the hand to the restroom and changed my wet pants into scrubs after I urinated on myself for the second time. It is burned into my mind seeing Skye lying on that stretcher and me calling out for her for hours. I remember the doctor telling me I had to leave and let her go, but I don’t recall walking out those doors. My whole world changed when I entered those doors, and it will never be the same. Denial, anger, guilt, depression, I still go through them all.
Preparing for Skye’s memorial I found her journal she had been writing in while in the hospital. She had been reading the Bible and had said a prayer out loud asking Jesus to come into her heart and start working on her from the inside out. She wrote she was in tears. “My drug problem, the problems I have with my sister and mom, etc. I gave it all to God so I know that whatever happens is his will and is for the best”.
God’s grace, my family, and the peace from Skye’s journal are what help me go on with life. It was 2 months before I could walk through those Emergency Room doors again. It was 4 months before I could walk into the room she died in. It was 5 months before I tried to go back to work as a nurse in the ER she died in. I had to go back to work though. I have 2 children to raise. Going back to their mom is not an option. She is dead from a prescription medication overdose.
I have another daughter and a total of 5 grandchildren. I’m terrified of losing another child. I know I’m not in control of it. I know the feeling of powerlessness. I pray every day, several times a day. I’m still scared.
God has a plan. Part of that plan is for me to be here speaking to you. Too many people are dying in our community due to overdoses. The community has to become involved in the fight against prescription drug overdoses. If listening to me helps one parent not ever get that call from the ER, then my time here is worth it.