Our beautiful Casey Jo Schulte slipped away from us on August 19, 2015. Her addiction to prescription pain medications (opioids) ultimately led to her death.
Casey Jo was 26 years old and had spent much of the 3 years prior to her death in the hospital. While attending North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND, Casey Jo was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. She fought hard to stay healthy and well, but often her disease would get the best of her. A serious and painful surgery in 2012 nearly took her life, but again – Casey Jo proved to us all that she is a fighter. Throughout this time, we began to get very concerned about the amount of pain medications that were being prescribed to Casey Jo. Years of taking dilautid, oxycode, oxycontin, and fentanyl had taken its toll – they snuck up on her like a stalker, waiting to pounce. Casey Jo was in a full-blown addiction and because these were medications prescribed to her, she struggled with the thought of being an addict. She trusted that the medications given to her by her doctor would help her, not kill her.
It wasn’t until June of 2015, that I was finally able to convince Casey Jo that she needed help and that we would do anything we could to see that she was safe and taken care of. One of the last words she spoke to me was through tears, “momma, it’s not my fault”. My reply; “no baby girl, it certainly isn’t”. I called and called places that had medically assisted treatment for Casey Jo, I knew that she would not be able to simply give them up without her illness being monitored and her withdrawal symptoms being managed. I could not find any places that would take her, and honestly I didn’t even know where to start looking. No treatment centers near our home in Montevideo had the resources we needed for her to get well. We finally were able to get her into a program in Minneapolis, she was due to arrive there the day after she was found dead. She was one day too late…
Every medication Casey Jo took was prescribed to her, she was on a pain contract, and she was seen every month by her doctor. Even with all those assurances in place, Casey Jo still became addicted and still died. Several months before her death, her doctor put her on an aggressive taper. Two months before her death, she first used heroin to supplement when her pills would run out, it was these connections that put her in harm’s way. She was a young, vulnerable and naive sick girl now living in a world that she had no business being in.
Watching her not be able to work, be part of our family, and follow her dreams of being a nurse was crushing. Casey was a champion dancer, swimmer and was very bright. She had a love for biology and learning. She made friends easily, loved all animals and was always there for anyone who needed her. Our brown eyed girl left home to go to college and she came back 8 years later in a hearse. This was not how it was supposed to be.