Summer Myers was found in a polka-dot sundress on January 4, her body sprawled on a mattress in the filthy trailer she shared with her brother in Alaska. Her skin was purple. A needle, a tourniquet, and bottles of pills surrounded her. Paramedics declared her dead of an overdose at 25—she'd taken a mix of heroin and prescription drugs—and moved the dark-haired girl's body to the kitchen floor to be photographed. Two months later, the images haunt Myers' brother, Jared, who found her 20 minutes after she'd shot up while he ate cereal on the other side of the bedroom door. And they're images Myers' mother, Jackie Smallwood, hopes to share. Though Smallwood couldn't save her "delicate flower," she hopes her daughter's story will save another life at a time when overdose deaths linked to heroin have spiked 39% in the US, the Anchorage Dispatch News reports.
Homeschooled in Ohio, Myers finished her coursework at 16 and began taking online college courses. But then she met a guy Smallwood believes introduced her to heroin. She began stealing from her mom and was convicted of a drug felony. "She became a completely different person," Smallwood says. Smallwood eventually moved the family to Alaska, but Myers' addiction followed her. Three months before she died, she nearly overdosed on heroin. A police report notes Smallwood's "frustration with Myers' condition and lack of treatment options." A few times Myers was willing to go to rehab, but faced wait lists or couldn't afford it, Smallwood says. "They don't take Medicaid. I didn't have insurance." Now, Smallwood can only remember the promise she made her daughter after doctors resuscitated her in October. "As long as I'm here, I will reach into death and grab you back. I will not let you go." (Read how one man hooked a city on heroin.)