One Pill Can KillPosted on by
Our daughter, Maisie, died after ingesting a methadone pill at a neighbor’s house that was on the floor. Six adults, three of them doctors, were with her the entire evening. Still, the small white pill found her hand, and then, as a nine-month-old baby would do, found her mouth. After putting Maisie to bed during her normal routine, her mother MaryBeth found her dead from an overdose the following morning.
Screams, tears, paramedics, heart breaking phone calls, funeral services, and a police investigation followed. None of it changed the outcome. Maisie died because medication was not safely stored up and away, out of her sight and reach. Maisie’s death should never have happened.
Eventually, Maisie’s tragic death was casually labeled to be simply an “unintentional overdose” – with no accountability or action, only the traumatic loss of life and grieving parents, friends, and family. As her parents, we have spread her story and legacy to whomever will listen via local news, the front page of USA Today, podcasts, health organizations, advocacy groups, and with the government at both local and federal levels with one goal: We do not want there to be any more families with our experience. We want changes in behavior, packaging, and practices so no families suffer like ours and there are no funerals for an unnecessary victim of the opioid epidemic.
Unfortunately, poisonings of children, like Maisie, are not uncommon. Approximately 35,000 young children are brought to the emergency room each year because they got into medicines that were left within reach. Thankfully, the vast majority are not life threatening – but children continue to find substances they should not have access to.
What can you do to keep your loved ones safe? Keep medicines, vitamins, and other supplements (including gummies) “up and away” in a place where young children cannot see or reach them. To help protect your children or grandchildren:
- keep all medicines in a child-resistant container with the safety cap locked – many other containers, such as pill boxes, are not and can be easily opened by children.
- keep medicines up and away and out of sight and reach of young children, like in a high cabinet or on a high closet shelf.
- never leave loose pills out on a counter or table – keep pills in child-resistant containers until right before you take them.
It’s easy for pills to fall on the floor and roll out of sight where young children could find them. Take time to sweep or vacuum the floor if children will be visiting. If you are traveling, either with young children or to visit them, be sure to pack your medicines in child-resistant containers. If you’re staying in a hotel, you can put medicines in the hotel room safe or on a high shelf in the closet.
Beyond your day to day, you can also promote unit of use packaging (e.g., blister packs) for drugs that are known to be lethal in small amounts. Unit of use packaging allows the person taking the medication to only access one pill at a time and helps to keep medication out of children’s reach.
One pill can kill. Child-resistant packaging laws have changed little since 1970, and with the SUPPORT Act of 2018, the U.S. government has the authority to make our medications safer for everyone. We do not get to raise Maisie, but we will always be her parents, and supporting and promoting safe medication practices is one way for us to do that.
To learn more about medication safety and safe storage, visit Up and Away Campaign | Medication Safety Program | CDC.
Adam and MaryBeth Gillan reside in Rochester, NY, and are parents to four children: Rhona, Maisie, Conway, and Archie. Adam works for a large consumer goods company and MaryBeth sits on the board of Camp Stella Maris in Livonia, NY and oversees the Purple Light Project, a fund in Maisie’s memory.