“A little foreknowledge, plus about $50, and my daughter would have lived to see 13.”
These words from Dad of three Jordan Magill have haunted me ever since I read them in the Washington Post a few days ago. Magill’s emotion seeps through his narrative, his grief backlights every word. But between the lines you can also read his passion: a grieving father’s drive to keep other parents from going through what he and his wife have: finding their daughter unresponsive in her bedroom upon going to wake her for school last May, giving her CPR, having an ER doctor tell them she was gone.
What had happened? Their “brilliant, bubbly daughter” was at the cemetery instead of excitedly texting friends as she had the night before her death.
Then, the autopsy revealed it: Magill’s daughter had, in an impulsive moment, decided to experiment: the 12-year-old had found his prescription anti-depressants in the medicine cabinet and decided to swallow a “palm full…more than 10 times my daily dosage.” She immediately threw up, and told her parents she had thrown up — but not about the pills. The prescription anti-depressants were time-release medication. “Once capsules rupture, the medication cannot be purged. Vomiting does nothing to rid the body of the poison,” Magill explains. His 12-year-old daughter certainly didn’t know that, and thought she was safe.
Magill says he knows his daughter wasn’t suicidal.
Our daughter plainly expected to wake up in the morning. Last texts with friends speak about weekend plans. She wrote with youthful excitement about an upcoming trip…We will never know what she was thinking. Why she took those drugs. Why she vomited. These unknowns haunt us. Her social media was unremarkable, rife with all the usual drama of adolescents. We will never know that “why.” The question haunts us, and still we have no idea.
He then goes on to say what he DOES know, and what every parent SHOULD know about their tweens and teens: science says they don’t yet have the BRAIN DEVELOPMENT to make sound decisions when it comes to matters like these. “Her brain was a teenager’s brain,” Magill explains. “Despite abundant cleverness, she lacked an adult’s grasp of consequences. Mature decision-making was still eight to 12 years away. Emotional tumult often rules teenagers’ lives. Things that, for an adult, might seem minor, even trivial, can provoke terrible actions.”
Magill then points out that this is why parents who do own guns lock them up, why others choose not to own them. He only wished he had realized long ago that his prescription medicines were as dangerous as a gun to his 12-year-old, that he should have locked them up, too. “Yes, we knew of the danger of opioids (and therefore kept none in our house). No one mentioned securing other pharmaceuticals from adolescents and teens. Our medicine cabinet, the unlocked arsenal of our family tragedy,”he says.
For Magill, the importance of keeping your prescription meds away from your kids cannot be stressed highly enough. The issue isn’t good kids or bad kids, rule-followers or disobedient kid. The issue is simply “young brains being undeveloped. A kid at home with an unsecured medication might just as well be left with a loaded gun. No child should be so vulnerable.”
Back to that $50 Magill says could have save his daughter’s life. After her death, he purchased a locked medicine chest for his bathroom for $48.99. “The amount keeps me awake,” he says. “Not having it earlier — that was the real cost. It is a price no parent should pay.”
Talk to your kids about the dangers of taking any medicine they were not prescribed, whether they belong to you or a friend. A sensible talk will help their impulsive brains make the right decision. And for the love of your children, lock up your OWN medications. Let’s spread the word so Magill’s daughter’s death won’t be in vain.