Carolyn Shirey of Holland said she does not want her son’s death to be in vain.
Jeffrie Shirey, 37, a father of four children, was struck and killed by a truck Wednesday on U.S. 23.
His mother is convinced that it was suicide, and said he jumped in the path of a truck to escape the pain and suffering of his drug addiction.
His mother said Mr. Shirey had been fighting heroin addiction for several years and went to Flower Hospital on Saturday seeking help to detoxify and for medical treatment for heart problems.
Authorities said Mr. Shirey walked out of Flower Hospital on Wednesday afternoon without being discharged. He went down to the highway and was walking along the southbound lane of U.S. 23 just south of Monroe Street when he ran across the road and was hit by a southbound tractor-trailer driven by William Grafe, 46, of Brighton, Mich.
Mr. Shirey was about to be officially discharged, and his mother had arranged for him to go to a long-term addiction program, but when she arrived at the hospital just after 3 p.m Wednesday to visit, he was gone from his room. She initially thought he was out taking tests, but hospital officials informed her that her son left voluntarily and had been killed in an accident on the highway.
“Ironically, I was sitting there watching the expressway, and there was an accident or something down there, I didn’t know what it was — I was sitting there watching this,” she said.
Hospital officials said Mr. Shirey was discovered missing from his room the nursing staff shortly before 3 p.m. At that point the hospital activated a code alerting staff that a patient was missing, and the hospital's security team began searching for him, said Tedra White, a ProMedica spokesman.
“We are extremely saddened by this week’s tragedy. Our thoughts continue to be with the family of Mr. Jeffrie Shirey,” the hospital said in a statement.
“I really don’t think he thought rehab was going to help him. You know Jeff always told me the withdrawals are so horrible that he would rather die than go through that, and I think that’s what his decision was. I think he felt everybody would be better off if he wasn’t around,” Ms. Shirey said.
Despite the pain of her loss, Ms. Shirey said she does not blame anyone for her son’s death. As a nurse, she understands that hospitals can be busy, and “we are all understaffed,” she said.
She does question, however, why her son was not placed in a more secure unit when he told the emergency room staff he’d used drugs that day, and she wonders why the hospital was about to release him back into the community without trying to address his addiction.
“I would like to see more compassion toward drug addicts and alcoholics. It’s a disease. Yeah, they had a conscious choice to stick that needle in their arm the first time, but after that, they’re sick. It’s an illness just like cancer,” Ms. Shirey said.
A statement release by ProMedica stated: “We are committed to the safety and security of our patients. There are patient safety protocols in place at all Pro-Medica hospitals that are tested on a regular basis to ensure that our staff is well prepared to respond to an emergency.
“A preliminary review confirms that our security protocols were followed on Wednesday. We always review serious events to ensure we continue to meet our patients’ and community’s needs.”
Ms. Shirey is not alone in calling for better treatment and greater education for the public on this issue. The steady increase in heroin use and overdoses in the Toledo area has both public officials and lawmakers concerned.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, in 2011, 426 of the state’s 1,765 drug overdose deaths involved heroin; a steep increase from 2000, when 71 of the state’s 411 overdose deaths were heroin-related.
Contact Marlene Harris-Taylor at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6091.