DETROIT - The American opioid epidemic claimed another victim Monday.
The mother of 22-year-old Elaina Towery shared a gut-wrenching photograph of her clutching her daughter just moments before she was taken off life support at a Detroit hospital.
Elaina reportedly died due to an overdose of heroin laced with fentanyl. She fell into a coma on Thursday.
Cheryl Towery, 49, told WJBK that her daughter had been battling addiction for seven years.
“She’s my only daughter, my best friend,” Cheryl said. “She was supposed to start her new job today; now she’s on life support.”
She told WJBK that her daughter and a friend had stopped at a Detroit Burger King last week. Elaina went inside to use the restroom. After about 20 to 25 minutes, her friend thought it was odd that she had not returned. Shortly afterward, a Burger King employee found Elaina unconscious on the bathroom floor.
Only moments earlier, Cheryl said, she had received a text message saying her daughter would be home soon.
“By 6 p.m., 6:30, 7, I finally got a message on Facebook,” Cheryl said.
She said her daughter had gone into cardiac arrest.
Elaina had survived five previous overdoses and visits to five different treatment centers, Cheryl said.
“I wasn’t prepared for what I saw in the emergency room,” Cheryl said. “Because that’s the worst I’ve ever seen her.”
She said her daughter’s addiction began in 2010, when she started to abuse prescription drugs to deal with an abusive boyfriend. That boyfriend, who was convicted of domestic abuse and other crimes, is also the father of Elaina’s 5-year-old son, Christopher. She gave up her son due to her addiction, Cheryl said.
Cheryl believes Elaina giving up her baby contributed to her addiction problems. She was also working as a prostitute, Cheryl told WJBK.
“[She was] beat up, being pimped out, being kept in a hotel room on heroin,” Cheryl said.
Cheryl said she made the decision remove Elaina from life support on Monday after it became clear that her daughter's vital organs were failing and that there was no brain activity.
“I’m going to fight for the rest of my life to make sure the people down here on the street selling this to people need to be locked up,” she said.