Rick Abbott - Writer, Photographer, Videographer

Rick Abbott - Reporting - Shane Driscoll

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Shane Driscoll

 

Son's suspected overdose death leaves Fargo family 'devastated'

By Rick Abbott

Published July 5, 2016 - The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

FARGO—The night before he died, Shane Driscoll came home to his parents' house, got things ready for the next day, took a shower and went to bed.

The next morning, around 6:40 a.m. Wednesday, June 29, Driscoll, 21, was found without a pulse by his mom, dad and sister. Paramedics worked for about 45 minutes to revive him, but it was too late.

There wasn't any evidence of suicide or drug use, his sister Jessica Grondahl said in an interview with The Forum. It looked like he fell asleep reading a book, she said.

But Fargo police are investigating Driscoll's death as a suspected heroin or fentanyl overdose, drugs Driscoll had used in the past, Grondahl said.

"Obviously they were devastated. There are no words for that," Grondahl said of her family.

Police couldn't comment on the active investigation, saying only that an autopsy was done on Driscoll's body and toxicology results are expected within a month to help point to an exact cause of death.

Police were at the scene of Driscoll's death for more than 2½ hours, another in a steady and deadly problem in Fargo-Moorhead and the region.

At least a dozen people have died from drug overdoses in the region so far this year, with dozens more that were non-fatal.

Though paramedics' use of the opiate overdose antidote naloxone has decreased in recent months, F-M Ambulance reports the life-saving drug has been used an average of seven times a month in 2016, and it's still a dangerous problem.

"The number of overdoses still remains high in the region compared to previous years," said Kathy Lonski, a quality improvement manager for F-M Ambulance.

'He wasn't ready to be out'

Grondahl remembered her brother before his funeral Wednesday, July 6. He was a loyal friend, always with a "positive, thumbs-up outlook on things," she said.

Driscoll graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Fargo and attended North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton for a year. He "was a blessing to more people than he realized," an obituary submitted to The Forum read.

Driscoll had struggled with drug use in the past, starting in high school. He completed a 28-day inpatient treatment program at Heartview Foundation in Bismarck in early February, and one day a week was continuing outpatient treatment, where he was tested for drug use, and attended support group meetings in Fargo.

He seemed to be doing everything right.

"He was so glad that he had reached out for help and decided to make this change," Grondahl said. "He wanted to make our family proud."

Driscoll got a new phone number and got rid of his contacts who continued their drug use. His parents took away his car for a time and cut off his access to money, hoping to put barriers up in case he wanted to use drugs again.

After she picked up Driscoll from treatment in February, Grondahl had a long talk with him on the ride back to Fargo. Her brother, knowing he had a long road of recovery ahead, seemed ready to face the realities of it, she said.

"He was very determined to work towards change in his life," Grondahl said.

Grondahl doesn't think his short stay at inpatient treatment was enough.

"Twenty-eight days is not enough for someone whose brain chemistry has changed," she said. "It barely allows them to detox and they're being sent back out to try and become a contributing member of society when they can barely function as it is."

Driscoll told his sister he needed more than just a month in treatment.

"He knew that he wasn't ready to be out yet," Grondahl said. "He should've maybe been in treatment for three months instead of one."

'My brother's not there anymore'

Speaking in an interview after a viewing of her brother's body at the funeral home and before his funeral, Grondahl was struggling with "anger" and "profound sadness."

She and the rest of the family hope that some sort of positive change can come about by speaking about Driscoll's death. They're banding together as a family, trying to push through the sadness.

"My brother had an addiction, but it's not how we defined him," Grondahl said. "I just want to be able to honor his name and give him some dignity in death."

In lieu of flowers, the family requested in Driscoll's obituary that donations be sent to Heartview Foundation to help with addiction and recovery efforts.

The young man, who always offered a "ready smile" and a helping hand, now leaves behind one of many families nearly torn apart as opiate overdoses continue.

"It's hard to think it's just me and my sisters, and my brother's not there anymore," Grondahl said.

Driscoll's funeral is set at 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 6, at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Fargo. Visitation will be one hour prior to the service.