OxyContin, Xanax Leave Teen Ruined
Posted by Childress on October 21, 2006
Justin Palmer used to be just another 19 year-old. Now he’s a very special one … but not in a good way:
On March 12, he left the house of his mother, Elayne Walters, in the Berkeley neighborhood to go to a party. On the way, he bought OxyContin, a strong pain reliever similar to morphine, and took the drug a few hours later with Xanax, an anti-anxiety medicine.
His friends found him in the morning.
The lack of oxygen ravaged his respiratory system. He spent a month in a coma. Friends and former teachers poured into the hospital.
Eventually, he opened his eyes. Sometimes they tracked his little brothers around the room. He made clucking noises.Walters asked the doctors what they called her son’s condition.They used phrases like persistent vegetative state.
Palmer is improving — slowly, with lots of pain and lots of work.
Palmer lists all the things he can now do. His right arm — once frozen against his chest — can raise a sandwich to his mouth. Or a drink. Even comb his hair and brush his teeth.And, look, he says, wiggling his left thumb. Four weeks ago, he could barely make it twitch.He’s relearning social skills, like not interrupting people when they’re speaking. He has developed the curious habit of asking women who pass by how old they are.
But he worries about his legs. On Wednesday, for the first time, he shared his fears with his mother.
“What if I never walk again?” he asked.
Walters told him, “God didn’t bring you this far to stop here.”
And he has a continuing fear, that another teenager will think that prescription drugs are safe and don’t pose the threat of street drugs. To them, a word of advice:
“Don’t do drugs,” Palmer says, slowly and clearly. He raises his right fingers and gestures at the body frozen in his wheelchair. “Look.”