Deadly secret: Heroin death occurs in a surprising place
ORIGINALLY POSTED APRIL 1, 2013, BY FRAN MAYE, FOR THE DAILY LOCAL NEWS (LINK)
Ever since she was a little girl, Kacie Rumsford’s dream was to make the world a better place for as many people as she could. But she’ll never get that chance.
Kacie died earlier this month in the bedroom of her parents’ borough house from a heroin overdose.
She was 23 years old.
She could have been any parent’s girl. She played basketball, softball and ran cross country at Kennett High School, where she graduated in 2007. She was a cheerleader and earned her black belt in karate. She loved to read and had an extremely high IQ, borderline genius, her father Andrew said.
But Kacie had a secret even her parents didn’t know about. She was addicted to drugs, and was shooting up in her bedroom of her parents’ house on Longwood Road where she lived.
March 12 will be a day Andrew Rumsford will never forget. He went to work at 8 a.m. and returned home at noon. He had a conference call at 1 p.m. and when it ended about an hour later, he decided to check Kacie’s bedroom because she had been so quiet. He thought maybe she had been sleeping, but it was unusual for her to be sleeping at 2 in the afternoon.
“I went into her bedroom and saw her on her knees, her hands were on her bed, and I knew right away something was wrong,” Andrew said. “I pulled her head back and her lips were dark blue. I screamed for my wife and I immediately did mouth-to-mouth and CPR. It was no use. She was already gone.”
Andrew and his wife Donna, who suffered a stroke in 1998 and has since had ambulatory and short-term memory issues, watched as their daughter was removed from the house by the coroner.
“Kacie was in a body bag and a state trooper was helping to remove her from our house, and he told us as he was passing us that drugs don’t discriminate, it can hit anyone at any age,” Andrew said. “Can you imagine losing your daughter? It’s a grief I’ve never experienced before. It hurts so bad.”
There were signs, and looking back now Andrew said he is beating himself up over not knowing earlier.
She often told her father that she was having a hard time sleeping, that her mind was racing. On occasion, she wouldn’t eat for days. She’d sometimes have constipation. Despite being extremely intelligent, she would bring home C’s and D’s from Kennett High.
“In light of her death now, I can think back and say why wasn’t I thinking like I should have been?” Andrew said.
Then there were the lies, and the missing money. Any addict needs lies to fuel the deception, and the money is essential to feed the habit.
“I confronted her about drugs,” Andrew said. “And she would always tell me no.”
But a year ago in March, Kacie developed an abscess in her arm, the size of a ping pong ball. She was taken to the emergency room and surgery was performed that left a 3-inch scar.
“That’s when we knew she had a problem, but she told us she would never touch the stuff again. She promised. And now she’s gone.”
Andrew and Donna discovered the scope of Kacie’s addiction when they looked in her room in the days following her death.
“We’re uncovering things we never knew before,” Andrew said. “The needles. It’s rather difficult to see some of these things.”
One of the things Andrew discovered was a letter Kacie had written to then-President George Bush in 2001, when she was 12. In the letter, he asked Bush to expand research into stem cell research, because she was taught that one person can make a difference. Kacie was certain this research could help her mother who had suffered a stroke causing her to lose the use of her left arm and left leg.
Kacie Rumsford attended Greenwood Elementary and it was at Kennett High were she was exposed to drugs. It wasn’t until after high school that she graduated to heroin. She attended Penn State, Brandywine campus. She would drop in and out of college, and was never able to consistently hold a job.
When she wasn’t making money from a job, she got it from home. She would tell her father she needed money for new pants, or that a friend needed money for a doctor’s visit.
And household items the Rumsfords could never find they now realize was likely stolen by Kacie to purchase drugs.
“If you come up with a reason,” she used it,” Andrew said.
The money, of course, was to feed her ever-growing heroin habit. The average cost of a single dose of heroin in Chester County (purchased on the street, average quality) is approximately $10 – $25. Someone with a heroin habit may pay $150 to $200 per day in order to support their habit.
Andrew said there were times Kacie would appear to seek help, but the heroin urge was simply too strong.
“She wanted help but she didn’t know how to get it,” he said. “This was an addiction she couldn’t beat. Counselors have told us that from the morning on (drug abusers) look for ways to satisfy their habit.”
Though the Rumsfords have buried their daughter, they have started a campaign to make other parents aware of the dangers of drugs. Andrew started a website called kaciescause.com that has links for a drug hotline, heroin laws, signs and symptoms of drug use, and a support letter urging local lawmakers to strengthen drug laws and expand treatment.
“I want folks around here will to learn from this beautiful young woman,” Andrew said. “She was a pure soul with a wonderful heart and was respectful. But she had an addiction she just couldn’t beat.”
Andrew said he may never recover from his grief.
“This is a shattering, devastating event and it just rips your heart out,” he said. “But Kacie is at peace, at rest, because her addiction isn’t calling her anymore. She had zero control over it. I’m at peace knowing that I can help others out there in the same situation.”
Rumsford is inviting local parents who think they have children addicted to drugs to write to him at email@example.com so he can help share his experiences and offer assistance.