This is a speech that I read when I spoke at a joint legislative research committee in Raleigh NC back in September of 2010.
I first want to take the time to say Thank You for allowing me the time to speak about something so very close to my heart.
My name is Frankie Andrews, I am 46 years old. I was 42 before I had my one and only child. I say this because, for the longest time the closest thing I ever had to a child of my own was my nephews and nieces. Family is everything to me. I have 5 sisters and when one of them hurt, I hurt with them.
I have some newspaper stories I would like to share with everyone also.
My phone numbers and e-mail is also attached with them, please contact me anytime if I can ever contribute in helping combat what each of us are here for.
Now on with my story.
On August 22nd, 2006 I received a phone call that my Nephew Matthew Absher had been taken to the Hospital and things did not look good.
It wasn’t long after that when I would get another call telling me Matthew had died. He was 25 years old.
When you receive news like this every emotion you can imagine, runs through your mind. My first thought was with my sister. I wondered, “How would she ever be able to overcome this”
I later found out that Methadone was what had taken Matthews life.
To tell a little bit about what got Matthew to this point you would have to go back to when he was in High School.
Matthew had hurt his back playing football in High School and through the years he would continue getting treatment for his back. Eventually he would be prescribed Oxycontin. He was prescribed this narcotic without any real education on the chances of becoming addicted to it and what troubles come with addiction and dependency.
Well as I am sure each of you can guess Matthew did become addicted and dependent with Oxycontin.
I would also later find out that during the months prior to Matthew passing away he had really worked hard and getting off all these pills. From my understanding he had been clean for about 6 months. The night he relapsed he had ran into a person that he use to get high with and the person talked him into getting high again and Matthew gave in and took Methadone. He went as far as taking the amount of Methadone he had been taking 6 months prior. He did this without thinking his tolerance level would not be the same as 6 months prior. Matthew took these pills and never woke up. His father is the one who found him.
I started to become proactive after Matthew passed away and soon realized it would take a lot of work. I then became frustrated, it was as if no one seemed to care. I then said to myself “If no one else cares then why should I? There is no way this could ever happen to this family again so just forget it” That is what I truly said and laying the issue to rest is what I did.
Well I was wrong!
On May 15th 2010 less than 4 years of Matthew dying, I lost my second nephew, but more tragically than that , my sister Diane just lost her second son to prescription drugs.
Now keep in mind, for almost 4 years I have watched my sister make herself keep going on for no other reason , but for the children she had left, and now she has lost another one.
2 of her 3 children are no longer here because of prescription drugs. I talk to my sister just about on a daily basis and her emotions are all over the place. All I can do is be there to listen and Pray God will give her comfort.
Just to let you know Matthew and Brandon were just like many of your own kids.
Matthew loved sports but his passion for basketball was 2nd to none in my eyes. Oh what that child could do with a Basketball. I truly thought that was going to be his ticket to great things one day.
However, for numerous reasons his Basketball ended when he Graduated High School. He also had a love for Football, I have always been a Colts fan and he has always been a Steelers fan. We would have endless arguments over who was best, with me never giving in nor would he. I guess since the Steelers have 6 Superbowl wins and my Colts only have 2 now, it truly isn’t too hard to tell. Just don’t tell him that. He also done very well academically in School.
He was a simple and respectful kid, which is how he was raised.
He was so simple , you could offer him a dinner at a fancy restaurant or put a frozen pizza in the oven and he would take the frozen pizza every day, that is as long as you have some Mt Dew to go with that pizza.
He was Diane’s first child, to try and tell you what he meant to her would be impossible , however those who have children can understand.
She was very proud of Matthew. When Matthew Graduated , Diane was as proud as any parent I had ever seen.
I could go on and on about Matthew but I know my time is limited.
Being the youngest of Diane’s 3 children, you can only imagine how spoiled he was.
However his thirst for life was something many were envious of and many thrive to be like. I am not sure I ever seen that child when he wasn’t smiling. He truly loved life to no end.
His love for life was so infectious to the people around him. If you were having a bad day, it would end as soon as Brandon came around. There truly was no other way to be but happy when he was around. He would have it no other way.
Growing up Brandon was the mischievous one. You all know the kind. The one who was always into something, but always seemed to find a way to get out of trouble. I can still hear my Dad saying “ Brandon what are you into “
I say these things but it was never any real trouble, it was just kids being kids.
Brandon also played sports in High School and also done well academically, he graduated on time.
Football was one of the sports he played and loved, but his true love was wrestling. He was brought up knowing that if his grades dropped he would not be able to wrestle, so therefore he always made sure to get his homework done and keep his grades up.
I am sure though that with most student athletes it was a struggle from time to time but you never heard him complain. He always managed to keep his grades up.
3 of his 4 years he placed in the State and in his senior year he finally won what he had been trying for so many years to win.
For you see in 2002 not far from where I am speaking now Brandon won his State Championship in Wrestling. His name will forever be in the record books and forever Brandon and Matthew will be in our hearts.
I tell you all of these things because that was a very small glimpse in the life of my sister and her little family.
Where my sister used to enjoy the wrestling basketball and football with her children. She now goes to a grave, and the only indication of the sports her boys once loved is the Pittsburgh Steelers memorabilia or basketball on Matthew’s grave decorating his tombstone. Or the wrestling pictures along with the words 2002 NC State Wrestling Champion etched into the black granite on Brandon’s tombstone.
No parent should ever have to go through this pain. My heart breaks beyond any words I can convey for my sister, but the both of us actually our whole family would love to see some changes in the way prescription drugs are handled.
The stories in the newspaper articles will go into more details about the circumstances of both Matthew and Brandon’s death and as I stated earlier, I give you my contact information to try and help make change.
I also know that pharmacies in the state of North Carolina are required by law to report to the NC Controlled Substance Database and that is great. However I know of some who do not and from my understanding there is no penalty for not abiding by the law.
In my opinion that is like saying the speed limit is 55 but if you get caught speeding then all they say is “Now you know you need to slow down”
I also believe Doctors should be required to access the data base before prescribing and controlled substance.
From my understanding with talking with Doctors one thing that prevents many from looking at the data base is “ Time” and they or a licensed practitioner are the only ones in the office who can access it.
I am sure in many cases they are just too busy to access it.
One way of getting more doctors on board would be if we could license someone within the office who could access this information and give it to the doctor along with any medical records that the doctor may need. Of course with licensing someone that person would also have to know all the privacy laws that would come with such and obligation.
Law Enforcement agencies see as much if not more prescription drug problems than any of us. I truly believe that it would be beneficial to everyone if they too had access to the data base. That would be a tremendous tool in helping law enforcement keep the illegal distribution of pharmaceuticals off the street. I am sure it would not keep it all off the street but it would help tremendously in controlling it.
Education is not what it once was when it comes to drugs. There are numerous things I would like to see on the education front but I will start with the obvious.
- In our schools, I believe the way we are educating our children today about the harm that comes with taking drugs does not really get to these children. Instead of telling the children what these drugs can do Show them the real harm that comes with taking prescription drugs or any drug as far as that goes, and let’s not sugar coat it. When it comes to teaching our children of the harms of drinking and driving we get pretty graphic as we very well should. In my opinion this is no different and we should take the same approach. There is no better teaching tool that reality.
- I also think a doctor should educate any person who is being given a highly addictive prescription. I am not talking about the side effects either. I am talking about really educating them on the harms of taking this medicine long term. Taking such things as Oxycontin long term could become addiction and with addiction sometimes becomes death. Most people’s mentality is a Dr. prescribed it so it is ok to take. I truly believe with the right education many people would look at other alternatives that prescription meds.
I really believe that if some of these things were in place both my nephews would still be here, I know there is no way of bringing them back but I do however hope that by their deaths others will learn.
I also encourage each and everyone to call your children and tell them you love them we truly never know when something like this could ever happen to us. Please don’t think it can because none of us are above it.
One last thing, I would like to commend Mr. William Bronson and Mr. John Womble.
I do believe their input on the NC Controlled substance data base should really be taken with the utmost respect. Who better to ask the pros and cons about the system then those who run it.
I pray one day I wake up and hear other states are looking at NC to duplicate their success in combating Prescription Drug Abuse.
Thank You and God Bless