"People think it happens to someone in a dark alley... It can happen to anybody": TV reporter on her 21-year-old daughter's OD death
Angela Kennecke said that an autopsy on Emily Groth's body found six times the therapeutic dose of fentanyl for a large adult male
A TV reporter from South Dakota went in front of the camera earlier in September to share with viewers the tragic details of her 21-year-old daughter's overdose death from fentanyl-laced heroin in May, only three days before she was to start treatment for her addiction. Angela Kennecke from Sioux Falls is an investigative reporter for KELO, a CBS affiliate. She has come forward to share that she made the broadcast of her daughter, Emily Groth's death with the hope that other families in similar situations will take action and not have to go through the pain she went through.
She said: "If I can prevent one other mother from going through the heartbreak I am going through, it’s good that I spoke out." The mother had said that an autopsy on Emily's body found six times the therapeutic dose of fentanyl for a large adult male.
Kennecke told PEOPLE that her daughter died almost instantly. The reporter had been, ironically, interviewing women whose children had all died from opioid-involved overdoses on the day that her own daughter breathed her last for the same reason. She told viewers of KELO: "I got a frantic call from her dad, saying, 'I think Emily’s OD. You need to get over here right now'. I can’t even describe to you what it’s like to hear those words."
I'm issuing a personal plea to end the stigma surrounding addiction and a call for action regarding the opioid crisis! pic.twitter.com/Ayxlf43UQm— Angela Kennecke (@AngelaKennecke) September 5, 2018
In the months that led up to Emily's OD, Kennecke said that she had seen signs in her daughter that something was not right and that, in hindsight, she thought that the abuse of these drugs could have been happening for a year. Emily was her eldest daughter and was a talented artist and gymnast.
The concerned mother started noticing that her daughter was losing weight and her eyes had become a bit sunken. She said that Emily seemed like she had been on something. The girl used to be a regular at family gatherings but had started missing a lot of them in recent times.
The mother said that she was shocked to find out after her daughter died that heroin, fentanyl, and most probably needles had been involved in the incident. Kennecke said: "Completely shocked, we were all shocked. I feel like people think it happens to someone in a dark alley. My daughter had the world at her feet, she had everything going for her, every opportunity and every privilege in life. It can happen to anybody."
Fentanyl is known to be an extremely powerful and synthetic opiate that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has said is 80 times more potent than morphine and hundreds of times more lethal than heroin. Drug dealers these days are synthesizing the drug which is regularly 'cut' or mixed in with heroin and cocaine. The drug has been involved in a majority of the 13 overdose deaths in Sioux Falls this year alone, according to the news broadcast by KELO.
In the days that led up to her daughter's death, Kennecke took Emily to doctors and counselors for issues that included anxiety. The mother then discovered on April 24 that one of her daughter's friends died of an overdose. She said: "When I heard that, alarm bells went off in my head and I started calling treatment centers and called an interventionist." Kennecke also said that she confronted her daughter about the drug use. She said: "She denied it. That’s what addicts do, they deny it."
Kennecke and other members of the family met with an interventionist on May 12, a Saturday. Mother's Day was the very next day and Emily, who had not been living at home at that time, went out for brunch with her mother. Her last words to Kennecke had been "I love you". The mother said: "She died that Wednesday, we were going to check her into a treatment center, insurance had gone through. I never got the chance to get her there."
The reporter said that it had been a struggle to get Emily the help that she desperately needed but try and keep her close at the same time. She said: "The thing I learned early on is, if I got angry with her, it didn’t work, she got angry back. Then I tried to approach it from a place of love but I am going to do everything I can to help her."
She added: "I think that even if you suspect something, trust your instinct as a parent and if your kid gets mad at you, who cares? And if you are wrong, you’re wrong, but at least they may not be dead, you may save their life."
After Emily died, the devastated mother took a leave of absence from reporting but returned to work early in September. She has launched a fund called Emily's Hope to help others in need pay for the cost of their treatment. Kennecke said that there are no words to describe the heartbreaking loss she went through. "There’s a big hole in our family. My kids and my husband are the reason for me going on. What do I do with this loss? Do I let it destroy me? Or do I turn it into a call to action?"