Updated: Mar 17
Stephen's mother, Debbie
Stephen J. Deagle, Jr.
May 19, 1982 - January 8, 2015
I am a single mom and lost my only child, Stephen J. Deagle, Jr, on January 8, 2015 at the age was 32. Stephen was an extraordinary young man. He had an IQ score of 147, but Stephen was much more than just smart. Stephen was kind, caring, loving, witty and gifted, with unparalleled talents in computer science and music.
From the age of four, Stephen would write code on his new Apple computer, master video games inside and out, and learned to play the guitar. From there he taught himself how to play the bass, drums and vocals. Stephen always loved people. He would stop and talk to strangers, and would do anything for his friends or family. He was the boy who was always laughing.
Stephen’s intelligence was recognized at a young age and was later accepted to St. John’s Prep, a private high school in Danvers, Massachusetts. When he was just a senior in high school, Stephen was one of 160 individuals worldwide accepted to attend a law and advocacy seminar in Washington D.C.
Stephen’s demise started early in his first year of college, when he had four impacted wisdom teeth removed. During the surgery, the doctors mistakenly chipped his jaw bone; requiring him to have two subsequent surgeries for which he was prescribed pain medication. I told Stephen that I wanted to take the pills so he wouldn’t use them, but he assured me he would only take one at a time, when needed.
Within days, Stephen became addicted. He later told me, “I knew I loved this pill. When I took the first one - it was the first time I didn’t feel any mental or physical pain.” He admitted this to me three months after his first surgery. I then put Stephen in private care treatment but, despite having to refinance my house three times to pay for it, he didn’t stay long enough. Probably because he was too young, still in denial, and wasn’t aware of the monster he was fighting.
At 19, Stephen got clean in Boston, moved to California for a good job and a chance at a new life. Sadly, he didn’t understand that treatment is not enough to maintain recovery, and the urge to use was too strong. Stephen found heroin in San Francisco and again we started the road towards recovery. I flew back and forth to do all I could to get Stephen into another treatment facility. Finally, we found one that would accept him and he entered treatment for the second time.
My son could not stop using - the urge were too strong. Stephen later went on methadone, despite my strong protests against it. As he explained it to me, “Mom I can’t stop and if I don’t get on methadone, I’m going to die.” Stephen stayed on methadone for nine years, but was unable to go off it, despite multiple attempts.
Finally, Stephen felt ready to start looking for work again. He found a job he loved that was in his desired field of Computer Science. Stephen excelled at his new job and was promoted within the first three months of working. His boss's boss later told me that Stephen would do things on the network that he didn’t know were possible. Yes, that was my Stephen.
Stephen amazed everyone who met him. He was very humble about his talents and didn’t want anyone to know just how smart he was, or how much he cared about everything and everyone he loved. Stephen was kind and generous to almost a fault. Since he was 16 years old, he was adamant about wanting to be an organ donor. Stephen stayed true to his beliefs, and when I got “that call” and it became clear days later that my son was brain dead, I pulled out his wallet and there on his license was the red heart, indicating he was an organ donor. Even his last gift would be the gift to save the lives of four others from his donation.
Stephen was my only child, my parents only grandson, my brother and sister’s only nephew and my niece’s only cousin. The loss of this kind, beautiful young man who wanted nothing more in life than to make a difference in the world has left a hole in our family that can never be filled.
My efforts to gain temporary guardianship were denied, BlueCross BlueShield wouldn’t sell me gap insurance, the courts would not get involved, and all of Stephen’s doctors that saw him for years wouldn’t fill out the paperwork to allow me to take over his care. After many pleas with his recovery center, they told me they were filling out paperwork to transfer him to another facility but they didn’t. Stephen was released after only 21 days - 21 days with nine new prescriptions. There was not enough time for his body to even adjust to new medication, let alone that detox from nine years of methadone, one month of suboxone, three months of vivitrol, and a heroin overdose.
My life is forever changed, I barely leave the house except to help care for my parents. The world is black to me now, where once all the colors were so vivid when I shared my life with my son. No wedding, no mother/son dance, no grandchildren, no holidays or birthdays - only darkness and pain. Despite awareness events, speaking locally, statewide and with members of Congress, no real change has been made to fix the broken healthcare system in this country. One death every four minutes is too many. May God bless all those who continue to struggle without the care they need and deserve.