My precious daughter, Kirsten Yamaoka, was taken from me by heroin and addiction.
Kirsten was my first child and I had the privilege of staying home with her when she was born. I loved her the minute I knew I was pregnant. She was the most adorable baby with thick, dark hair and blue eyes.
When Kirsten was younger and started school, she wanted to be a janitor or a waitress. There may have also been some talk about being a doctor. Before Kirsten’s death she was working at UPS, where she was a model employee. Her supervisors spoke highly of her.
Kirsten enjoyed reading, working out, eating healthy, dancing, laughing, singing and playing volleyball. She loved spending time with her family, especially her brother, J.W. They played video games, watched movies, wrestled, texted and loved one another intensely. He called her “Sisi” and she called him Bubba.
She and her Dad were best friends.
Kirsten was also close to her Aunt Nicole. Kirsten’s middle name is Nicole.
February 29, 1996 is her birthdate and she joined the special few who were ‘Leap Year’ babies. She also had a “Spock” ear which other family members had also.
One of my favorite memories of Kirsten is when her brother brought personalized M&M’s from New York. On some there was a recovery message and the others her name. Kirsten cried.
I started noticing changes when Kirsten went to middle school. Her “friends” were involved in drinking, drugs, smoking, and sex. Kirsten was engulfed in the attention and it was a release from her everyday life. She started skipping school, getting low grades, sleeping a lot, not participating with the family and her attitude was harsh. I spoke to teachers and counselors — they gave suggestions. I spoke with police and they listened. I got Kirsten a counselor and she was a sounding board for Kirsten. Kirsten had started to sneak out and stay out all night, so I got an alarm system to keep her in. Her friends, except for two, were all older than she was. She was introduced to an adult world that she had wanted to partake in for a few years. This is when I reached out to anyone who would or could help us both. Kirsten quit high school in her sophomore year. Eventually Kirsten obtained her GED and we were very proud she completed her schooling.
Kirsten was in treatment or a program at least 5 times during her struggle with addiction. She completed one program, graduated drug court and had six months of sobriety before she overdosed. She also had many on and off periods of sobriety where we could witness the “real” Kirsten.
I wish I had support earlier and knowledge in how to handle an addict. About 2 years before her death, I was introduced to a parents and grandparents Al-Anon group. They knew what it was like and had wonderful suggestions to keep me sane. I found out I didn’t cause her addiction, I couldn’t cure Kirsten’s addiction and I couldn’t control it. The message that I received was love the child not the disease and that my family can be at some peace whether she was using or not.
All of Kirsten’s relationships were altered due to her addiction. Heroin stole her soul and made it impossible to be a productive member of any relationship.
The last days of Kirsten’s life left a lot of unknowns and pain. She was missing for five days. We frantically searched for her. Previously, she had gone missing when she was using but she would send a text or message and we knew she was alive. This time there was no word from her, no text, no message of “Mom I’m ok” and that’s how I knew deep in my heart that she was no longer alive. She was found at Idlewild Park in her car dead in the backseat. An apparent overdose of heroin. It was her 21st birthday.
Mourning Kirsten has been softened by love, kind words, memories and gestures. However, this will be a lifetime of ache and I am a different person.
Kirsten you will always be loved and never forgotten.
-Darcy Patterson, RN