On Sunday, March 19 at 4:00 a.m. I received a phone call from my ex-husband Harry. My daughter Elizabeth, Liz as we called her, her fiancé Kyle and my then 9-month old grandson Carson lived with him.  I could not understand anything that he said, I asked him to repeat it, and once again I could not understand him.  I thought maybe he was having a medical emergency so I said “Harry, I cannot understand what you are saying” and he yelled out, “you need to get down here,” I said “what’s wrong,” he said “Liz overdosed.” I asked “is she breathing” and  he replied “ NO.”

My boyfriend Tim and I jumped in the car and in the eight minutes it took to get there, I just kept praying to God to save my one and only child, my baby girl.  As we drove back the lane I saw flashing red lights from about 8-10 emergency vehicles and at that point I knew I was not dreaming, that this was real.  We went in the house and I felt like I was moving in slow motion, I went back to Liz’s bedroom and the EMT’s were blocking the door, I didn’t know what was going on, then they wheeled her out of the bedroom and took her to Hershey Medical Center.  It became apparent to me that she may have already been gone, the emergency medical personnel didn’t give any indication that she was going to live.  It was a moment that I can’t even begin to put into words. 

Harry, Tim and Kyle drove to the hospital, I stayed behind as my grandson was in his room sleeping.  They  returned around 5:30 a.m. and informed me that Liz was gone, she did not survive.  Liz’s dad, who had helped to perform CPR on her earlier, sat in a chair and wept, he asked “what did we do wrong”, I replied “Harry, we did nothing wrong, we raised a great child, she just made a bad mistake, a bad mistake that cost her life.”

The following Tuesday morning I received a phone call from the Dauphin County Coroner’s office, her name was Lisa and she was a very pleasant women who explained to me that Liz died of heroin laced with Fentanyl.  I had no idea what Fentanyl was and I asked her to spell it. I felt completely ignorant to the fact that my daughter died from something that I didn’t even know how to spell.  In the days leading up to her funeral, our family discussed what we were going to tell people about how she died.  I realized that we needed to tell the truth and I intend to do that at her funeral service. 

Over 900 people attended the visitation and funeral services the following Friday and Saturday.  The outpouring of love and support from family, friends and strangers was overwhelming.  As I spoke to about 400 people at the funeral service, I informed them that Liz’s passing was contributed to depression, anxiety and a drug called Fentanyl…and I spelled it for them,  F E N T A N Y L and I told them that up until last Sunday, I had no idea what this was.  Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opiate; it’s the drug that killed the pop icon Prince.  It’s the drug that now causes 13 deaths a day in Pennsylvania and over 50 deaths a day in the United States.   Fentanyl is available legally (with a prescription) and sold illegally and inexpensive on the streets. It's 50-80 times stronger than pure heroin.  It’s the drug that’s killing our children, our friends, our friend’s children, our family members and people that we love.

In the days that followed Liz’s death, I realized that I needed to tell her story to more than just the people who attended her funeral service.  Through an outreach on Facebook, I was contacted by WHP TV 21; ABC TV 27,  Penn Live and WGAL TV 8,  all of which were eager to speak with me and tell our story to the public.  The Penn Live article was shared over 5,000 times in three days.  In the days following the news coverage, I was literally inundated by people on Facebook messenger and text messages telling me of addiction struggles with either themselves or a loved one and how much they admired me going public and speaking out.

So how did Liz become addicted to heroin in the first place?  In her high school years and after graduation, Liz was very anti-drug. She ended friendships and disassociated herself with anyone who did drugs.  After graduation Liz went onto Cosmetology school and became a very talented beautician. In October of 2014, she got into a romantic relationship with a client’s son who was battling addiction and  had been in and out of prison for many years.  Liz wanted to help him straighten his life out and live a life of recovery.  In December when he was released from prison,  they started a more serious  relationship.  I remember having a conversation with Liz and I said “Liz, is this really the kind of person you want to be in a relationship with” and her response was “Mom, do you trust me, and if you do, let me see where this relationship goes and if it gets to be too much, I will end it.”  I told her I did trust her judgement and I would stand by her as long as I saw this person making a difference to change his life around.  Unfortunately,  that did not happen, in the two years that the relationship lasted this young man relapsed many times, he was charged for robbery, he wrecked her car while driving with a suspended license – she was in the car and lied for him, she told the police she was driving when an eye witness confirmed he was driving and she was summoned with a falsifying information charge against her, he stole her money, he was mentally and physically abusive, Liz was cited for two disorderly conduct charges for fights that she incurred while he was “high.” She was evicted from her last apartment and she was self-destructing.  She lost almost all of her close friends and her family was turning their backs on her.  We realized she was doing heroin when the two of them broke into her father’s house and stole hundreds of dollars from him.  We knew at that point she had hit rock bottom and believed she had turned to heroin as a desperate escape from her dark life.

Luckily, shortly after her initial heroin use, she confided in a family friend and was immediately admitted to Roxbury Treatment Center in Shippensburg in July of 2015. There she met Kyle and three months later she became pregnant. She was warned and instructed not to start a romantic relationship in rehab, but Liz didn’t always listen to rules and warnings. I was not happy with a new relationship so soon after her last one, especially when I knew that Liz had a lot of recovery work to do and find inner peace and strength within herself.   I had hoped that she would have taken time to work on herself, but I was also fearful that had she not met Kyle, there was a good chance that in time, she may have gone back to the previous relationship.

She continued with outpatient therapy for three months but due to insurance coverage, she was forced to seek counseling at a facility that was not her first choice, unfortunately her and her assigned counselor didn’t really seem to click, after her sessions she would call me and tell me that she didn’t feel as though the one-on-one sessions were really making a difference, that she felt she was over her addiction and by November she stopped seeking therapy and group meetings.

When my grandson was born in June of 2016, I thought his birth was enough to save both Liz and Kyle from this heroin epidemic, but I was naïve and did not understand the power it has over ones brain.  Liz was in recovery for 19 months.  I had no idea she was thinking of doing heroin again, I thought she was suffering from postpartum depression, anxiety and stress of working and being a new mother.  I missed the warning signs when the Sunday before she passed and she was talking about her life struggles she said to me “Mom, these are the things that make you want to do heroin.”  In the weeks that followed Liz’s passing, I learned that Liz was over prescribed prescription medications including two anti-depressants, Ativan and  Adderall.   After conversations with Dauphin County Coroner Graham Hetrick, he explained that when mixed with Fentanyl, Liz was given a “cocktail” for death.

Unfortunately I can never bring Liz back, but I can tell her story and hopefully save a life because that is what she would want me to do.  We have established the Elizabeth Loranzo iCare Foundation in Liz’s memory to promote public awareness, education, to help those in need from addiction, depression anxiety, alcoholism and other social disorders.  We also assist parents and those who have lost loved ones from addiction in their time of need.  CARE stands for Compassion, Advocacy, Recovery and Education.  In the short time that we have gone public, we have received hundreds of outreaches for help,  and depending where people live, we first direct them to their County’s Drug and Alcohol Office for a full assessment and rehab placing or other services the county offices provide.

We work with Area Counties, municipalities, and any other group that asks us to speak on educational panels to share our story.  We also participate in local school district drug awareness days.  Where there is help, there is hope for addiction.  For more information on our programs and initiatives, click here .