by Marta LeFleor- Board member, McShin Foundation
For me, this one word evokes a vast variety of emotions.
This is Brenna, my sweet, loving, smart, artistically talented, compassionate daughter. This is a shy little girl who was wiser than her years and a young teenager who, if the front door to her dreams didn’t open, always found a way around to the back door. This is the part of me that I grieve for every day. Her life has become my motivation.
The first college basketball game she went to introduced her to cheerleaders and becoming one became a her passion. She started by cheering for a community team and by the time she hit high school, she was coaching the community team and cheering for the school.
Our tragedy began at a high school cheering practice where someone fell on her, resulting in several fractured vertebrae and prescriptions for a LOT of opioids. This was 2006/07 before anybody I knew was talking about an addiction crisis. There were no warnings from the doctor or pharmacist, no caution stickers on the bottles of pills and nothing to prepare us for the brain changes we were soon to encounter.
She managed a silent battle to keep her addiction under control until the day she turned 18. Then the dam broke and addiction consumed her. She spent 4 years in active addiction, living with friends, sleeping on couches and doing whatever the disease demanded of her.
When she finally decided she’d had enough she opted for methadone treatment. The medication kept her symptoms at bay but had terrible side effects and she asked to be weaned off. Not surprisingly, with no counseling or 12-step support, almost as soon as the medication was out of her system her substance use disorder grabbed control again.
She didn’t waste time
She chose to go to a treatment facility out of state. Once she completed their program (less than 60 days) they sent her to a sober living community. If I had only realized how bad this placement was she would have been out of there within a day.
They had to get up at 2am to leave at 3am for an hour bus ride to work 10-hour days and then an hour ride back home. Support? Really – not even time in the day for meetings. There were no house supervisors, so there was nobody to hold the person who was bringing opioids into the house accountable. Once again, substance use disorder reared its ugly head – this time with dire consequences.
On the morning of December 8, 2014, I received the call that every parent dreads – my beautiful daughter had overdosed and was in “extremely critical” condition in an Atlanta hospital. It was a nightmare flight just to have them pull us aside almost as soon as we arrived and ask permission to remove her from life support.
Second opinions and additional tests revealed that only 2 small portions of her brain retained any function – one of those allowed her to feel pain – there really wasn’t any choice. My daughter died in my arms at 5:23pm on December 10.
I am grateful to her first responders – they allowed me to talk to her, read to her, hold her. I’d like to believe she knew we were there and was comforted by that.
Brenna’s spirit walks with me now helping me to inform & educate, guiding me to compassion as I teach crocheting and quilting to the participants at our local RCO, and shining a light on many other small ways her life can make a difference.
If you are looking for resources for a child suffering from Substance Use Disorder or to find support for yourself, see the Resources page for Addiction. For grief resources, see this page.
12 thoughts on “My beautiful daughter, Brenna LeFleor, died of overdose”
Marta, Thank you for sharing your tragic and so very painfully sad story of your beautiful daughter Brenna. It helps to educate us how vulnerable our children are to addiction. We all have something to learn from your loss. We can do better. Hugs to you!
As long as some of us have known each other we often dont know our individual stories…thank you for sharing Marta…hugs
Incredibly sorry for your loss. I am glad you have written to share with others.
WOW!! You ALL are amazing!!! What a great gift of love & support you offer!! Thank you!
My heart is breaking for this beautiful young woman. I have tears in my eyes, and I do not know the family. The system failed this ( truly beautiful young woman) and her family.
There were so little resources even a few years ago, so parents “depended” on the professionals to guide us. Insurance companies do not want to pay for this medical condition. Fly by night operations that have no state monitoring are not helping the situation.
Martha, Thank you for sharing your story.
We all need to do better. We are raising classrooms full of anxious kids. Happiness and self fulfillment have to be part of their education.
An injury should not lead to addiction, yet for many, that is how it all gets started. The tobacco companies have been held accountable. When are the pharmaceutical companies going to be held accountable? They should be helping fund treatment programs.
Thank you!! I so agree!! We can’t depend on the government. We have to make change happen ourselves! I work for an IT company. Very “educated” people but so many have lost family members to this disease and still aren’t talking about it. Nothing changes if nothing changes. We have to force that change.
You are amazing and kind and compassionate. And I am so grateful you are part of my village and my son’s village. Keep giving hope to our loved ones. You truly make a difference. I wish I knew Brenna- I know I would have loved her. Thank you for keeping her memory and life alive by breathing life into our loved ones. You are truly a gift of grace.
DJ joined us last week for crocheing!! He learned really fast and did a great job!! Sorry he couldn’t join us this week but hope to see him more in the future!!!
How brave of you to share your beautiful girl. You are honoring all the best parts of her in the work you do daily.
Love to you.
Thanks Jenny! You too are making a huge difference. We have to band together to do this because nobody else is willing!
I am so glad you were able to hold your precious daughter in your arms during her final moments of life. Your daughters passion and spirit will certainly live on in your memories of her, and always be a blessing to you. Thank you for sharing your story with others.
Thank you for sharing your heartbreaking story. Brenna sounds like an incredible person.