Submitted by Amanda’s mother, Frances Cross
Who Amanda was
Amanda was a brilliant person with a beautiful soul. She loved people young and old, and they all loved her. She was so trustworthy, and we never had to worry about her making a bad choice when she was growing up. She was a cheerleader, played clarinet in the band, and still made straight A’s while in school and college. Amanda graduated at the top of her high school class and in the top percentile at Arkansas Tech University.
We live in a small town, and she had been out of high school for 11 years, but there were over 300 students and teachers that came to her memorial service. That tells me what an impact she made on so many lives. She was so well respected and loved.
An accomplishment Amanda was most proud of
Being an RN and BSN. She graduated at the top of the class. She always wanted to work with geriatric patients, and she was able to work for the best cancer doctor in our state. Caring for her oncology patients was her passion. She loved her work.
Amanda struggled with chronic back pain
When she was 13, a drunk driver rear-ended our car. Amanda was in the back seat. Later that day she complained about her back hurting, so I took her to the hospital emergency room. They ran a few tests and said they didn’t see anything, so they sent us away. I treated her with over-the-counter meds and heat and cold packs.
She recovered with occasional complaints, so I took her to the doctor. He said that at her age, girls’ hips start widening to prepare them for childbirth, which explained the pain. So we continued on.
Then one night at a basketball game, she had been on the court at halftime to cheer. When they turned to leave, she hit the floor and couldn’t walk. We rushed her to the ER, and they referred us to an orthopedic specialist. After all the tests, he came in, sat down, and put his head in his hand and said he didn’t know what to do. He said she had the back of an 80-year-old woman, but that if he started operating on her then by the time she was 23, she would be in a wheelchair! So we left and cried. A lot!
She did intense physical therapy, no more cheering, no more playing softball, and changed jobs to one that was less stressful on her body. Eventually the pain decreased to a level she could tolerate. She went to the university and married after her sophomore year.
I didn’t want her to marry because I feared that he wouldn’t take care of her, but he assured me that he loved her and would make sure she was well cared for.
Well, he didn’t hold up his end of the deal. Within a year and half, she had a major back surgery. The surgeon told me it was much worse than he had expected and that he had done all he could but it wasn’t good. Within six months, her pain was back. We tried everything we could to help her. She started pain management and had several procedures done, but they also gave her the strongest meds available.
Eventually her husband divorced her, and she came to live with me in 2008. By then, her addiction was bad — but considering the meds they had her on, what could anyone expect? I felt like I was at war, and I was the only one fighting!
When her opioid-use disorder began
In 2005, one day she was really hurting and had taken her meds as prescribed, with no relief. She finally took one more pill and for the first time in a very long time, she was no longer hurting. That was the beginning of the addiction.
How opioid-use disorder affected Amanda
I began to see her personality change, and she slept a lot. Then, when we went to the doctor, she was more aggressive about the pain meds. She was hospitalized many times for the pain, and she was very aggressive about the meds there as well, telling them what worked and what didn’t, asking for certain meds, etc.
By the time she came to live with me, I saw that she was really abusing the meds much more than I had realized.
How our relationship changed while Amanda was struggling with opioid-use disorder
It was not good. I had to hide meds from her. She stole meds from me when I had surgery. She was not the same person, and neither was I.
I was so stressed out trying to save her that I felt I was fighting a losing battle. I guess I was. I was hateful many times, and I can remember the look on her face. Her heart was broken, but so was mine. I was fighting for her life!
How Amanda fought opioid-use disorder
She went to a rehab center and was clean for about three months before she went to the pain management doctor without me knowing. He gave her the normal amount of meds he had been giving her, which included a fentanyl patch and 90 hydrocodones and a variety of other meds. She came home and hid them.
How Amanda died
She was acting weird and was very sweaty the night before, and I asked her if she had gone to a doctor and got meds. She denied it, so I went on to bed. The next day, October 21, 2010, I went to work before she was awake. I came home at lunch to find she had passed away while I was gone.
She left this world alone. My heart and soul were shattered into a million pieces!
You see, the problem is that I was with her nearly every time that she went to see a doctor, and never, ever — not even one time — did the doctors ever talk to me about the problems with the opioids. Never once did they talk to me about addiction. Never once! Why? They were killing my daughter, the love and sunshine of my life, and they didn’t have time to talk to me about what could happen! It wasn’t as though they would have been breaking a HIPAA law. I was sitting right there beside her! They knew I was her caregiver! Something has got to change!
Our last moments together
The night before she died, she came to my room. We talked and hung out for a good while, and then she hugged me and said, “Goodnight, Momma, I love you,” and I told her the same. She left, and I went to bed, never to hold her again.
My most vivid memory of Amanda
How very sweet she was and how beautiful she sang. She loved music, and she loved Jesus. I know she is in heaven singing with the Angels.
If I could say one thing to Amanda now, it would be
I am so sorry! I love you, and I miss you every minute of every day. I pray that you are at peace, happy and healthy again. Please forgive me for not understanding addiction and not being more prepared to help you. Losing you is my greatest heartache.