Her son is dead. She's talking straight about drug abuse.

Jordan Cameron Maurer and his mother, Jonna Winifred Lee
Jordan Cameron Maurer and his mother, Jonna Winifred Lee

Jonna Winifred Lee’s son, Jordan Cameron Maurer, died twice.

The first time was on Dec. 1, when he was at a party at N.C. State University. He had ingested a lethal combination of Xanax and “Roxys” (oxycontin). When EMS arrived on the scene, he was cyanotic (blue) and hypothermic (cold to the touch). EMS immediately gave him two blasts of Narcan in the nose and later, at WakeMed Cary, he was given a shot of Narcan in his hips. Narcan saved his life by keeping him from going into respiratory arrest.

No one told Lee about that December incident until a month after Jordan died again — forever — on Jan. 8th.

That time, it was too late for the Narcan to work. His friends were afraid to call 911 when Jordan’s breathing sounded funny, kind of like gurgling, also known as the opiate overdose “death rattle.” They called 911 at 7 a.m.; by then Jordan had been dead for hours.

So on Jan. 11, at Raleigh’s Hayes Barton United Methodist Church, Lee stood before a packed sanctuary to eulogize her 6-foot-4, handsome, intelligent, and funny 19-year-old son. She looked out at Jordan’s friends and parents, packed into the pews and decided this was her chance. “I knew I had to keep it real,” she told me. And that is what she did. And that is what she is still doing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more Americans died of overdoses in 2016 than during the entire Vietnam War, considered by many to be a drug-heavy era. More than 475 people are taken to emergency departments for opioid overdose every month, right here in North Carolina. Lee wonders why people aren’t taking to the streets in outrage.

Lee is launching a crusade to bring the community together around this issue. She knows it won’t be easy. Some parents grappling with an addicted child want to keep it quiet, to protect their kid — or their own image. Some simply don't want to hear.

But Lee is determined to fight this plague of addiction by connecting those willing to be connected, and by giving real-world advice to anyone who will listen.

Lee stresses: If you’re paying for your kids' phones, or they're living at home, insist on knowing the password to unlock their screens. If you have the slightest worry, do random checks of phones and backpacks, rooms and cars. Sure it’s an invasion of privacy, but watch your kid and listen to your gut. Lee found Xanax, a brick of marijuana, and a small Browning handgun in her backpack searches.

What bothers Lee is that so many people know which young people are using and dealing, yet so few are brave enough to say anything.

Lee remembers Jordan’s geometry teacher calling to say Jordan was suddenly bombing the 9th grade honors class, sleeping through lessons. That’s when Lee knew her son was using. She also remembers one night a woman appeared at her front door and said, “You don’t know me, but our sons are dealing drugs together.” Lee invited her in.

By the time Lee’s beautiful son Jordan died, he had been in local counseling, detox at WakeBrook and WakeMed, wilderness treatment in North Carolina and out west. He had been convicted of felonies, and had a probation officer too.

But before it ever got to that, there were so many other teachers, classmates, friends and parents, who had to have known how deep Jordan was in the drug world. None of them contacted her.

She wishes they had.
Community columnist Ruth Sheehan practices law in Raleigh. Reach her at rsheehan@thefrancislawfirm.com.