Mother raises awareness in wake of daughter’s overdose.
By Lindsey Nolen
Oct. 17, 2016, was the worst day of Susan Rosney’s life. On this day, her daughter, Dana, lost her battle to addiction at just 23 years old. Living at a sober living facility off Kensington and Westmoreland, just a few blocks away from where she grew up, Dana fatally overdosed on the narcotic fentanyl.
While her lengthy battle with addiction may have been the cause of her death, Dana’s mother refuses to let only the bad times reflect how her beautiful, loving daughter is remembered. In telling her story, Rosney has spread awareness of the potentially fatal outcomes of addition.
Just a little more than five months after her daughter’s death, Rosney has put together a team of “Dana’s Angels” who will gather at noon on April 29 for the 2017 Overdose Awareness Walk at the Eddystone Lighthouse Hall, located at 1401 E. 9th St. in Eddystone. Together, the team hopes to raise as much money as possible to help others such as Dana find the right treatment programs.
Roughly 100 people have committed to walking in Dana’s honor. From her friends to former coaches to families who share similar experiences, “Dana’s Angels” will walk together for the person Dana was, without the drugs defining her.
“Before she got into drugs, Dana was just your typical Fishtown kid,” Rosney explained. “She had the best childhood a child could have hoped for. She was just loved and had a great, big bright personality.”
Yet, possibly contributing to her change in personality, Dana lost her father to cancer at age 12. It was the year after his death her mother recalled the beginning of Dana’s depression, followed by a string of outbursts.
“Still, soccer was Dana’s life at this time,” Rosney said. “She had always loved soccer and was beginning to travel the whole country, from Las Vegas to California, Florida, Virginia and Maryland. She had even made the U-17 U.S. National Team.”
However, during her sophomore year of high school, which she attended at Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls, mental health issues arose, and the teen began experimenting with drinking and marijuana. According to her mother, the following year, she expanded her drug usage to pills and was ultimately expelled from school.
“We were struggling with her behavior, and we decided to move out of Fishtown to Long Island, living with one of Dana’s soccer coaches,” Rosney said. “She was offered a full-ride to Villanova on a soccer scholarship, but soon getting high began to make her feel better than playing soccer did. She had a disease.”
Not long after relocating to Long Island, Rosney began to notice the wealth of the area provided yet another means for teens Dana’s age to get their hands on drugs, and ultimately for Dana to find another fix. Seeing that, behind closed doors, Long Island was just as dangerous as their Fishtown roots, Rosney moved her and her daughter back to the Philadelphia neighborhood, and Dana re-enrolled in Little Flower as a senior.
Despite a 14-month sober streak from March 29, 2012, until the following year, once her sobriety was broken, Dana struggled to reach even 13 days clean. Hating psychological medicines, she would say she didn’t need them, and stressed that she wasn’t afraid of death and that she wanted to be back with her father.
“Again, things soon took a turn for the worse when she got so bad into the drugs that she became homeless, sleeping in friends’ cars at night, getting back into drinking, molly, pot and Xanax,” Rosney said. “She didn’t get to walk in her graduation and had to take all of her exams that year at home with a social worker. She was also in and out of psych wards and detox rehabs, including one that she went to in Florida.”
Three years later, at 22 years old, Dana graduated to using heroin, and Rosney recalls things escalating worse than ever before on Dec. 12, 2014. This was when Dana was admitted to the ICU at Jefferson Hospital after she had been living on the street and developed an infection that turned Sepsis and then into Toxic Shock Syndrome.
“She was on a ventilator for 29 days and didn’t wake up until Jan. 12, 2015, only to have to go to more rehab,” Rosney said. “The hospital said it was the worst case of Toxic Shock Syndrome they had seen in 25 years.”
Even after coming home after her ICU experience, Rosney remembers the tube in Dana’s trachea and the one that had to remain connected to her stomach. Even then, two weeks later, she was getting high again.
“It was horrible for me because there was nothing I could do, I had tried everything,” Rosney said. “It got to the point where Dana was like my drug. I would chase her, follow her and stalk her because I was so afraid of losing her. It got to the point where I was getting so sick that I had to stop.”
Around this time, Rosney would find her daughter sitting outside the Wawa by their house panhandling. Then, right before her 23rd birthday, Dana approached her aunt about taking what would be her last vacation to North Carolina. Together, Dana, her mother and her aunt visited the Outer Banks, providing Dana with a six-hour detox on the ride down, for a great vacation.
However, just two months after their trip, Dana was pronounced dead at a “sober living facility.” Although her mother had known this day was possible since her daughter became heavily involved in drugs, it could never make the reality of the situation any less difficult or devastating.
“There was nobody who didn’t like Dana, she was a great kid,” Rosney said. “There were over 1,000 people at her funeral, and her death affected a lot of people.”
Since Dana’s death, Rosney has been contacted by other mothers in her shoes, and by the many friends of her daughter. Together, they have taken steps to ensure Dana is not forgotten, including a mural that has since been painted on Tucker Street between Memphis and Tulip streets.
“I look at all of these young kids in the area with their parents just running around playing soccer and think, that was my life one day. Then, overnight it changed and it’s just so scary,” Rosney said. “Even though, as a parent, I don’t feel any guilt over her death because I tried everything, I still want to do my part in spreading awareness.”
Rosney admits there were points in her daughter’s life where she had enabled her. Trying to deter increased negative behavior and to be in control of her daughter’s whereabouts, she had often let Dana drink and smoke pot at their home, but Rosney came to realize that for Dana, this controlled and monitored usage was never enough.
“In helping to share my story, I’m on all of these different awareness sites and about two months ago something about the Overdose Walk popped up,” Rosney said. “My niece helped me, and together we got our team together for Dana. We’ve been sharing it and everybody wants to walk and do this for Dana.”
To help Rosney raise money for a cause that could help so many others who have gone through or are going through circumstances similar to her daughter’s ongoing battle with addiction, donations can be made to the 2017 Overdose Awareness Day and Memorial Walk at: runtheday.com/donations/41934.