KINSTON, N.C. - A teenager died from a prescription drug overdose a little more than a month ago. Now, her mother is working to educate other parents about a dangerous new trend among teenagers.
In a story you'll only see here on Nine, the mother of 16-year-old Kaitlyn Nicole Rouse talks about how her daughter's life was taken too early.
"Her friends were going to competition. They were getting together and practicing, they were doing those things and she couldn't do that anymore," said Shannon.
But 16-year-old Kaitlyn Nicole Rouse wasn't in school, she was in rehab. Her mother, Shannon Ruiz, took her there after discovering Kaitlyn was abusing prescription medications.
"You think of a horror story. You don't think of the cute little girl that's the little cheerleader or the girl next door; you just don't think of those things," said Shannon.
Things like four months of rehab, ending, Shannon says, too soon.
"When I brought Kaitlyn home from rehab, she wasn't ready but, because of funding, she had to come home that 120th day. And everyone knew she wasn't ready to come home; Kaitlyn knew she wasn't ready to come home," said Shannon.
Shannon struggled for a year to find more help for her daughter, but in Lenoir County, she says, the resources are few-and-far between.
"I hit so many closed doors. There was just no where out there to get help," said Shannon.
It was on the night of June 23, 2011, Shannon's birthday, when the nightmare began.
"About 10:30-10:35 her friends left and Kaitlyn and the little girl that was left at the house to spend the night said, 'We're going to get in the pool in a little while,' and I was like, 'Well, ok, but just don't be out there too late," said Shannon, "So I go lay down; I go to bed and at 1:24am my phone rang and the little girl said, ‘Ms. Shannon I need help with Kaitlyn, she's in the pool and she's not breathing."
It was Kaitlyn's brother that pulled her from the pool, Shannon calling 911 while giving CPR.
"I was just rocking her back and fourth saying, ‘just please don't take my baby," said Shannon.
Kaitlyn would crash three times before arriving at Pitt County Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced brain dead, the result of overdosing on multiple prescription drugs.
"I later found out that because I started CPR we were able to donate her organs and six people received her organs. A 13-year-old got her heart," said Shannon.
A heart of a girl that dreamed of becoming a cardiologist. A heart her mother says was taken too soon.
Since Kaitlyn's death, Shannon has started a non-profit in honor of her daughter.
"I was just praying, what am I suppose to do with this? And I work for a nonprofit and all I kept hearing repeat in my mind saying this place started somewhere," said Shannon.
Remembering back to how hard it was to find help for Kaitlyn's addiction, her non-profit will educate the public about the dangers of prescription drugs and empower them to recognize abuse.
"The theme of my daughter’s funeral was peace because she was finally in peace and she had given me the plaque that says ‘peace’ so, that just felt like the appropriate name - The PEACE Foundation," said Shannon.
Standing for Prescription - Education - Abuse - Counseling and Empowerment - PEACE will be one of the few organizations in the east aimed specifically at prescription drug abuse.
Shannon hopes it'll keep kids, like her daughter, from risking their lives.
"She just didn't think it was going to happen to her, just like everyone else thinks - that's not me," said Shannon.
If you'd like to help or donate to the PEACE Foundation you can do so at their first kick-off event on September 10th that'll be at Pearson Park in Kinston from 11-3 pm.
The same day Kaitlyn would have turned 17.
You can also send a donation to:
P.O. Box 6144
Kinston, NC 28501
KINSTON, N.C. - Shannon Ruiz tell Nine On Your Side about her 16-year-old daughter who died from a prescription drug overdose and a dangerous trend facing many teenagers.
Ruiz says her daughter, Kaitlyn Nicole Rouse, made straight "A's" in school and participated in cheerleading. She said it was during the sport when her daughter tore her ACL and was first introduced to prescription pain medication.
Since she was 12-year-old, Ruiz says her daughter wanted to be a Cardiologist and her high test scores were proving that path to be a viable option in her future.
It was a future cut short after Kaitlyn overdosed on multiple prescription drugs on June 23 of this year, some of which were anxiety pills prescribed by her doctor.
Tonight at 6 o'clock - Nine on Your Side's Alex Freedman will have Ruiz's full story about her daughter's life, what ultimately led to her death and how a new non-profit, started by Ruiz, hopes to educate parents on the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
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