We work to change it for another family ...
Eammon Padraig Sheehan was the light of his mother’s life from the day he was born. Raised in a single-parent household, he was a happy kid but struggled greatly in school due to attention deficit disorder (ADD). Although he did not graduate from Haverhill High School, he earned his equivalency degree at Northern Essex and went on to work as a machinist, a finish carpenter, an auto mechanic which he excelled at as well as a host of other trades he could use his hands for. He bought and rebuilt a used Army Jeep and drove it on the road and on off-road trails, entering the occasional mudding event. He was happiest when he was the muddiest one in the pack, even winning first place for that honor. His love of fishing and the outdoors had him making his way to the banks of the Merrimack River often. For peace, and solace and to still the demons …
At age 28, things changed. Eammon fell in with a crowd that introduced him to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid more powerful than heroin. From that point on, his life was in a downward spiral. He stopped working. He could not make the payments on his new car and had to sell the Jeep for money to pay for drugs. He tried rehab several times, but those stays were short, and it never took.
Finally, in January 2019 he committed to rehab for a month. He was released, and it seemed to be working. He passed months of court-ordered drug screenings and began working and cleaning up his life and his record. He was working construction with his lifelong friend and “brother” AJ. It appeared he had things under control and that life was going well. Appearances are deceiving …
Fentanyl is a powerful mistress who pulls at you with zero mercy, no discrimination and doesn’t let go.
After a great night on Friday reconnecting with old friends and renewing relationships, he came home anticipating work the next day. On Saturday, April 20, 2019, Eammon woke to a rainy day unable to go to work in construction. His decision to simply throw it all away, take a bus to his dealer and begin using again will always be a mystery. Rehab is hard work. Then a video was posted on Facebook, of Eammon in the throes of an overdose, not breathing, eyes rolled up into his head. It’s how his mother found out this effort was over. Her son overdosing, dying, and being humiliated came up on her timeline. While others were trying to help, the one filming was narrating the event and degrading this man in trouble. Mocking, degrading, and shaming a helpless human being. Police and ambulance personnel revived him, and he was released. For whatever reason, he still had fentanyl on him. It’s what he used to the point of a second overdose that night. The thought is that seeing the video – and he did when he got home – was enough to send him to his room in shame - to use. When his mother checked on him, she saw that he was not breathing. She called 911 and began CPR. First responders gave Eammon shots of epinephrine and used a defibrillator to shock and restart his heart but could not get Eammon to breathe. Ultimately, taken to Mass General, a CAT scan of his brain revealed catastrophic damage due to a lack of oxygen. He was brain-dead. But he could still give life.
Eammon had signed up years ago to be an organ donor. His mother was consoled to learn his loss could benefit others. After a 24-hour period to allow for the fentanyl to leave Eammon’s system, tests revealed that he was a viable donor.
His heart went to a 70-year-old grandfather, his liver to a 30-year-old man, and his pancreas, one of the rarest forms of transplants, went to a 40-year-old woman, while one kidney saved a 70-year-old man, and the other kidney saved a 50-year-old woman.
Helen went home with a video of her son’s heartbeat, and a new mission: to make sure that no other child was lost to fentanyl; to make sure no other parent suffered a loss in such a devastating way as hers.
And so Eammon’s legacy will be ONE OF LIFE, not loss: of saving lives through addiction prevention and through organ donation.
Eammon’s Heart will live on.