The Medication Had to Play a Part In It

By Wesley Gooch

By Stephen Crane

Many in this community are still in disbelief, struggling to understand what happened to one of their own, one of their sons. For weeks, people rode the rollercoaster. They awaited word of his whereabouts. They assisted in the search. And they were plagued with questions in the aftermath.

These are questions not easily answered - daunting questions without a simple reply. But Carole Richie has been asking them. Her son’s death demanded it.

“Anybody who knows Garrett knew that this was not Garrett,” Richie said. “And the medication had to play a part in it, because he was so outgoing and had his life planned out, everything planned out. And this is something that just went wrong real quickly, in a matter of hours.” She found Garrett Bardin’s prescription bottle of Paxil while the search was still ongoing, and the discovery gave her pause even then. As the events unfolded and the facts became known, Richie mourned as any mother would, and that mourning will continue. But she was also compelled to dig deeper into the bottle of Paxil.

“I suspected earlier, when I actually found the medication bottle,” Richie said. “And it was overwhelming when I started looking into it.”

What Richie discovered was that Paxil has a dark side rarely mentioned by those who peddle the pill.

In June 2004, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer filed suit against GlaxoSmithKline, the makers of Paxil, charging the company of withholding information concerning the potential dangers of Paxil, particularly during withdrawal from the medication.

Paxil is classified as a selective sero- tonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), and has been shown to cause akathisia, or severe inner restlessness, in some patients. This can often lead to insomnia and anxiety, as well as aggressive, violent, or suicidal thoughts or actions.

This discovery has led Richie to start a non-profit group in the area named Garrett’s PALMS, which stands for Prevention, Awareness, Legislation against Medications that may cause Suicide.

“The community’s having a hard time understanding too,” said Richie. “I want to help the community heal. I want the community to learn more about it, and I’m hoping that this’ll help them understand.”

For Richie, Garrett’s PALMS has helped her in numerous ways. It has given her a positive mission, despite the tragic cause. It has helped her focus on others, and the impact she can still make in their lives.

“Garrett’s PALMS has given me a drive,” said Richie. “I’ve got to make something good of something so bad. There’s so many people on these medications. I just want them to know this doesn’t have to happen to them.”

Despite the fact that PALMS is helping Richie, she is still reminded of her motivating factor. And she still struggles with the grief that accompanies such a shocking event.

“There’s highs and lows,” Richie said. “The last couple of days have been pretty good days. A few days before that, it was really a couple of low days. It is a rollercoaster, definitely a rollercoaster.”

The death of a child is one of the most difficult crises to confront a parent. And Richie is still wrestling with the heartache.

“Sometimes, I still can’t believe it. I really can’t believe that it’s happened. And I don’t know if I’ll ever really believe that it happened . There’s definitely a big hole and a lot of emptiness there now.”

But she also remembers the 23 years of Garrett’s life that she was given to enjoy. She remembers his gregarious smile and his warm hugs. She remembers his welcoming spirit and his outgoing nature.

Every morning, she takes her four-mile walk out toward Temple Peak, just south of Boulder, where she finds solace in quiet conversations . “I walk straight towards Temple Peak,” Richie said. “And Big Sandy River is right under Temple Peak. And I talk to Garrett and God every morning out there, and I shed tears every morning. And I think Garrett was such a smile and such a greeter to everybody that he’s doing his job there too.”

She has also found comfort in the support of the community, from which friends, family , and strangers alike have given her words of encouragement and shoulders to cry upon and ears to listen.

“I get calls all day long, you know, ‘How’re you doing? How’re you doing?’ And it really helps to talk about it. And it helps me to heal by doing that.”

She also calls some of Garrett’s friends and asks them the same. Some of the kids he grew up with and people he worked with are still struggling with the death as well. And they lean on Richie, and she on them.

She even gets letters from a few people who were at the Rainbow Gathering. While some were less than helpful in the search, others showed genuine concern and wanted to assist.

“I’ve had a lot of mail from those people, you know, praying for me,” Richie said. “And they said, ‘Just you guys being there, we could tell how close and loving a family you were.’”

Richie was also overwhelmed by search efforts from the community as a whole, and her gratitude was apparent.”

A lot of locals were out there,” said Richie, “and his company that he worked for, a lot of them, and all the friends, and this little Boulder community, all of the ranchers got on their horses one day and spent time out there too.

“There’s lots of people, lots and lots of people, and probably ones I’m not even aware of were out there, just because people felt driven to go out there.”

The considerable amount of people who showed up at the memorial service underscored the community’s love and support of Richie and the rest of the family.

“We saw that at the memorial service, that he had touched an awful lot of people. And he can continue on touching them too. He wouldn’t want to see another family go through this.”

This sentiment has inspired Garrett’s PALMS, and Richie hopes the community will listen to the message it brings.

She decided to kick off Garrett’s PALMS close to his birthday, which is on Aug. 24. Their inaugural event will be on Aug. 27, when Dr. Ann Blake Tracy gives a lecture entitled, “The Dangers of Antidepressants.”

The family is also going to have a small gathering of relatives and friends this weekend to celebrate Garrett’s birthday and to spread his ashes on the family’s land.

“They say, closure, but I don’t think there’s ever closure,” Richie said. “So I don’t want to say it’s closure, but we’re celebrating his life some more.”

That same celebration of life is the driving force behind Garrett’s PALMS, the positive potentials of a devastating tragedy. Richie wants to raise awareness of the risks that certain medications can sometimes bring. She wants to keep Garrett’s outgoing spirit alive by using it to impact the lives of others.

“It’s what I feel like I need to do,” Richie said. “It helps me a lot to do this. I just want everybody knowing this was not Garrett. It’s something that should never ever happen.” [email protected]

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