Mother's Day for Karen Flexer is never going to be the same
RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS Karen Flexer of Lehighton holds photo of her son, Brett, who died two years ago at the age of 20 when he mixed a prescription drug with alcohol.
Tomorrow is Mother's Day.
For Karen Flexer of Lehighton, it will be a bittersweet day. She is the mother of three sons. Two of them likely will remember to tell her how much she means to them.
One son, Brett, won't be there for her. He died on April 23, 2011, just two weeks after his 20th birthday. He had been at a party with friends, came home with no signs of any ill effects, and was found lifeless on his bed by his mother.
Brett was a middle child. The other children of Karen and Randy Flexer are sons Derrick, the oldest, and Dylan, a senior at Lehighton Area High School who will be attending Mansfield University in the fall, where he will play football.
Brett was attending Lycoming College.
At college, "He was majoring in criminal justice but he had so many credits he was going to double major in criminal justice and psychology," Karen said regarding her son's priorities. "Every semester, if he wasn't on the Dean's List, he just missed it," she said.
He also wrestled for Lycoming. He was an athlete and played football and wrestled from the time he could join pee wee leagues.
"He was never in trouble," Karen said of Brett. "He was a good kid. They say there are signs when your kids are doing drugs. (With Brett) there were no signs. He didn't steal (money for drugs). He didn't ask us for money. He always told us where he was. When he was at Lehigh Carbon Community College (before attending Lycoming) he worked two jobs to save up money for a car."
She said he was always selective of his friends.
At the time, things were going great in Karen's life. The family was close. They always ate dinner together and talked about their day. They were open with each other. The family went on family vacations, played games, and watched movies together. She never could have imagined how so quickly life could take such a vicious turn.
It was Easter weekend that Brett came home from college. Since the tragedy occurred, she has talked with his friends in an effort to find out what happened exactly happened that fateful night.
Karen, who works for the Carbon County Sheriff's office, said Brett went to a party. He was not looking for drugs. He asked a friend for a beer, then got into an argument with the friend.
"He hardly ever spent any money," she said, that's why she was shocked to learn he spent $50 for the pill he took which cost him his life.
The pill was an Opana, a prescription pain killer more powerful than morphine.
Witnesses told police that Brett was looking for alcohol and not drugs when the pill was offered to him. Karen thinks it was peer pressure which caused him to take the pill.
Police reports indicate, "He took the pill with two other friends. They crushed it and took turns snorting it. All three boys were drinking, split one bill, and ended with catastrophic consequences for Brett."
She said, "Three boys split one pill. They were all drunk. I hope those (other two boys) realize how lucky they are."
She continued, "Brett did wrong, too. He made a bad choice and paid the ultimate price for his choice. We never once said Brett was innocent."
She heard Brett come home. Nothing seemed unusual. He didn't fall up the steps. He didn't appear to be ill. He went to the bathroom and then to his room. His truck was pulled into the driveway "perfectly straight."
"I would never have suspected anything," she said.
In the late afternoon, she opened his bedroom door "and I knew something was wrong."
"I don't remember a lot about what happened afterward," Karen said with a sad, blank look on her face. "I remember calling for Randy. Randy called 9-1-1. I pulled him on the floor doing CPR and screaming for him to wake up - and knowing deep down it was too late."
Why did he take the pill?
"I don't know," Karen said. The previous day she had taken Brett for a job interview for a job with the state. He knew to get the job he would have to take a drug test.
Karen keeps thinking about what she might have overlooked in Brett's life, but sees absolutely no signs there was any drug problem. She's convinced there wasn't.
"I spoke with a lot of his friends at school," she said. "When Brett wasn't in class or at wrestling practice, he was in the gym. He did not do drugs out there."
She stated, "You do start to doubt yourself. I asked myself if he was doing other drugs. I was told by the funeral director that he can tell when they are drug users. Brett was not. He was a very athletic kid; a very healthy kid. He was the smallest of our three boys but he was the strongest."
The individual who supplied the drug, a college student, was arrested.
The day after Brett died, some of the boys who had been at the party visited his parents.
"They came to the house and said 'we need to tell you something'," Karen recalled.
They related details of the party, including the drug which Brett had taken. Had it not been for them coming forward, "we probably wouldn't have known what happened. I commend them. That was brave of them to do that."
The grieving mother said she was told that the autopsy showed Brett went to sleep and didn't wake up.
Karen said the death of her son wasn't the end of the heartbreaking chain of events.
Afterwards, she had to listen to rumors about what happened; stories that had no shred of truth to them. Some were spread by people who Karen previously thought were her friends.
She said she has lost trust in people, resulting in arguments with Dylan.
"This has had a traumatic affect on my family," she said. "My husband and I have severe trust problems since it was a friend who gave our son the pill. We often have a feeling of dread waiting for something else to happen. A simple thing like the phone ringing causes our hearts to stop beating because we are so afraid that something has happened to one of our other sons. I still don't sleep at night and at times I have panic attacks.
"My youngest son who graduates from high shcool in June is severely affected by what has happened. He couldn't and still can't cope with the rumors people created of Brett, the brother that he looked up to and who was always there for him."