“Our mission is to create a path to a safer community for our Haverhill youth by changing the dialogue around the stigma and shame of addiction, providing additional funding to existing early prevention programs as well as the development of future prevention curriculum. And finally, to raise awareness to the possibility of organ donation.”
Helen D Sheehan
Why We are here
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. 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, finish carpenter, auto mechanic – all of which he excelled at, as well as a host of other trades he could use his hands for. He bought and re-built 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 a few times.
His love of fishing and the outdoors had him making his way to the banks of the Merrimack River and Salisbury reservation often. Later on in his twenties, 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. It was a rapid decline and he could not make the payments on his brand new car. 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 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. But, 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.
The video posted on Facebook, of Eammon in the throes of an overdose, not breathing, eyes rolled up into his head, was how his mother found out this effort was over. Her son overdosing, dying and being humiliated came up on her Facebook timeline. While others were trying to help, the one filming was narrating the event and degrading this man in trouble. That shouldn’t happen. 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 a half an hour after he went up to his rooms, he saw that he was not breathing. Unable to obtain a pulse Narcan wasn’t working. She called 911 and began CPR. First responders gave Eammon shots of epinephrine and used a defibrillator to shock and restart his heart. 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, his pancreas, one of the rarest forms of transplants, went to a 40-year-old woman, while one kidney saved another 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 she took from the ultrasound, and a new mission: to work to make sure that no other child was lost to fentanyl; to
work to make sure no other parent suffered a loss in such a devastating way like 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!