Sitting quietly in a rocking chair located in Billings lower south side, sits Shelly, a 50 year old drug addict

without the will to survive. Since 1972, she has struggled to speak and breathe normally after an automobile accident claimed the life of her sister and best friend, Rena. The tragedy left Shelly in a coma for several months and led to years of rehabilitation. Since then, her breathing has been assisted with an artificial trachea tube that enables her to speak. Her voice is raspy, and most times barely audible. Her answers are short, and many of her sentences sound like whispers. Although I knew she had a long history of prescription drug abuse, I was amazed at the amount of courage she displayed. Despite the years of addiction, and her physical limitations, Shelly possessed a unique way of looking at life and people in general. At first, after deciding to write this article, I was interested in doing a piece on handicapped individuals and how society views them as less than perfect. But after meeting Shelly, the story took on a new twist as she shared her feelings about living and dying. Although the physical scars appear to have healed, she still struggles to heal from the physical pain and the emotional damage caused by the loss of her other family members. The physical pain caused by her trachea tube and prescription addiction is secondary and was the least of her concerns. Shunned since age 16, by everyone other than her mother, Shelly learned how to perfecr her "who cares" attitude. At age 19 she met and married Terry, her husband of 25 years. In the beginning, their lives were filled with all the feelings connected to wedded bliss. However, by the time her second child was born, the verbal abuse had progressed to brutal beatings, kicking, along with severe psychological brainwashing. After getting divorced and losing custody of her children, Shelly never saw life as "precious." In fact, for her, life was an introduction to hell and she looked forward to dying. During the last 10 years of her life, Shelly attempted to overdose on painkillers at least 8 times that I know of. However, instead of being embraced by death, it continued to elude her. After first meeting Ms Wanner, I was shocked that anyone would have such little regard for life.In fact just about everyone I knew wanted to live, love, and enjoy every moment connected to it. This alone made it very difficult to wrap my head around her constant attempts at suicide. As time went on, I offered my friendship to Shelly, hoping that somehow, I could become a positive influence. But, I was wrong. All Shelly really cared about was leaving this earthly kingdom and reuniting with her deceased mother. On January 17th, 2008, Shelly received part of her wish when she mustered up the courage to become drug free, without any assistance from the folks at the rehab center. When I learned of her death, I was surprised to hear that she passed away from pneumonia. Her physicians were in denial and seemed to act as though they were cheated that she beat her addiction without their help. Her family continued to act ashamed and denied Shelly's friends and ex-caregivers the last fifteen minutes at the prayer service to say their good-bye's. At first I was furious that she was treated so poorly even in death. However, in the end, Shelly got the best of them all by passing away sober and happy to be united with her mother in heaven. Way to go Shelly! Hope to see you there... Brooke Jennings is a woman who is passionate about educating the public regarding nursing home abuse/negligence. Since the death of her son, Michael, she has been active in rallying supporters for The Faith Foundation (fighting abuse in today's healthcare), and helping to change healthcare regulations regarding the housing and hiring of violent ex-felons, sex abusers and rapists in our medical facilities. Brooke has demonstrated her commitment to the public in the past while serving as a law enforcement officer. Currently, she resides in Nevada with her husband and three cats.

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