Heroin In Ocean County - One Family's Story

Patch file photo
Patch file photo

by Patricia A. Miller

Maureen Morella did not want to be on stage Thursday night at the Stafford Township Arts Center, at a drug forum talking about what heroin did to her family.

But she came anyway. She came at the insistence of her son Jesse. And she gave a powerful, thundering speech. She yelled. She was often near tears. She walked up and down the aisles.

The audience of hundreds was silent as she spoke. They gave her a standing ovation when she was done.

"I speak to you in a loud voice," she said. "I want your kids to hear my words. No drugs! No time for any reason! I will not let it happen to your child. Not on my watch!"

Jesse was 16 the night he went to a party at a friend's house.  That was the night that everything changed for the close-knit Morella family.

Jesse is 25 now. He is a quadraplegic, unable to talk except with a letter board. His nourishment comes from a feeding tube. He wears diapers and is totally dependent on his parents for everything.

Jesse had already confessed to his parents he had dabbled in marijuana before he went to his last party.

"Mom, it was pot...everybody smokes pot. I don't want you to be nervous about it," Jesse told his mother.

The Morellas were horrified. They put Jesse on "house arrest" for six weeks. After that, he was only allowed out one night a week with his friends. Maureen would drop him off, his father Taylor would pick him up.

Maureen even went so far as to have Jesse tested for drugs weeks after the marijuana confession. He tested negative.

Teenagers and young people today are desensitized and anesthetized to the dangers of drug abuse through movies, music and social media.

"But by God they won't be when I'm done," she said.

Maureen had called the parents where the party was to be earlier in the day. She was told there would be an adult party upstairs, the kids would be downstairs.

"I was assured there would be no alcohol, that it would be supervised and chaperoned. I told Jesse 'you can go but you can't spend the night.' "

The night life changed

They dropped him off at his friend's house. But sometime during the night, Jesse ended up with older kids, already out of high school, his mother said.

"Jesse snorted heroin with his friends in a beautiful house in a beautiful town with parents upstairs," Maureen said. "This is the face of heroin."

When his father brought him back home after the party, Jesse was sick, very sick.

"He said to me 'Mom, I went to the all-you-can-eat buffet. I'm really, really nauseous,' " she recalled.

She helped him to his bedroom, put a bucket next to his bed and said she'd be back to check on him soon.

"The last words I ever heard my son say were nine years ago," Morella said. "He said, 'Thanks, Mom. I appreciate it.' "

A short time later, the Morellas heard strange noises coming from Jesse's room.

Jesse had vomited, aspirated the vomit and stopped breathing.

"His eyes were fixed and gone into the next world," his mother said. "He was turning blue."

The paramedics told the Morellas that Jesse was gone.

"But they kept going and going," she said. "Until they had a heartbeat. He lived through the first night only because of the will of God. He has a new mission."

Jesse spent a year in Children's Specialized Hospital. The family lost their home due to mounting medical bills. The marriage nearly fell apart.

Morella walked up to the edge of the stage, looked at the 108 luminaria placed three deep, and pounded the stage several times.

"There are 108 candles up here," she shouted. "I can't bear it again. This is not for the faint of heart."

Jesse today

Today the young man who was such a promising artist is fed on an elevated slant board with a feeding tube. He has to spent time on the board each day, to help his organs function properly. It makes him nauseous. Sometimes he throws up while he's on the board.

Today he clumsily spells out words with his letter board. When his mother asked him once what he missed most about eating, Jesse - a true Jersey boy - spelled out "Taylor Ham sandwiches."

Today Jesse has little use of his limbs and spends most of his time in a wheelchair.

"But he understands everything," his mother said.

When Maureen didn't want to go to the drug forum Thursday night, her son spelled out a message.

"Mom, go out there and tell them my story. So that this never happens to another kid."

Maureen believes her son survived to serve as an example of what can happen when young people experiment with drugs. That is Jesse's mission.

"Jesse gave up his future," Maureen said. "He will not get another chance. He just gave you yours."

Keeping whats mine December 13, 2013 at 01:25 PM
Maureen, i am truly sorry for what you are going through. I am thankful to God my son stopped with that crap. I found him several times sideways in his bed, i thought he was dead. I can only hope you made an impact. Because as we know kids dont listen, they have to learn the hard way.


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