This is an unspeakably tragic story. As a parent, it is the kind of story that makes me fearful of the world that my children will inherit.
Before moving to Grande Prairie from the Vancouver Island city of Nanaimo, Darren Steinke and his sister, Heather Work, would often get stern lectures from their mother about the dangers of doing drugs.
As an employee of Edgewood, an addiction rehabilitation centre in Nanaimo, their mother understood through her experiences there that doing drugs is a gamble – except the user never wins and everyone, including family and friends, loses.
It’s why Steinke, 29, cannot understand why his 25-year-old sister decided to take an ecstasy pill the night of Sept. 11, which ultimately led to her death two days later.
“Because of ( our mother ) we’ve always grown up anti-drug, she was always anti-drug and for whatever reason, she decided to try ecstasy,” he said.
On Sept. 11, a Friday, Steinke was in Whitecourt visiting his twin brother. Work was at her home in Grande Prairie’s east-side Creekside neighbourhood with her husband, four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.
According to Steinke, it wasn’t long after taking the pill that Work developed arrhythmia, and blood stopped flowing to her brain, causing it to start swelling. She began coughing up blood, and then “she collapsed in her kitchen at about 3 a.m.”
Saturday morning he got a call from one of Work’s friends that she was in the hospital in a drug-induced coma and he immediately returned to Grande Prairie along with his brother. Their parents flew in from Nanaimo.
After attempting to control the swelling in her brain by cooling her body temperature, doctors informed the family early on the Sunday morning that there was no neurological activity and that she was most likely clinically brain dead before she arrived at the hospital.
“That’s how quickly it happened ( after ingesting the pill ),” Steinke said.
A toxicology test confirmed there was no evidence of alcohol or any other drugs in her system, Steinke said. However, he also said it is unknown at this time if the ecstasy was laced with any other chemical that may have played a part in her sudden death.
“It’s hard to tell,” he said. “They don’t know, and that’s one of the dangers of ecstasy.”
This is an unspeakably tragic story. As a parent, it is the kind of story that makes me fearful of the world that my children will inherit. The headline “One Bad Choice Cost Her Her Life” is right. But the bad choice was not taking the pill. That was a normal choice, one that millions of people make each week. The bad choice was not even Heather’s. It was our collective decision to prohibit drugs and thus to create incentives for them to be laced with or mixed with unknown substances.
The reaction that Heather had does not happen with MDMA (the ingredient in real “Ecstasy”). As her brother points out, one of the big dangers of synthetic drugs on the black market is that you simply do not know what is in them. I would be very, very surprised if the pill was pure MDMA. But if drugs were legal and sold to adults in regulated markets, Heather would have known exactly what was in that pill and it would not have been laced with anything. And she might well still be alive.