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To read complete story of what happened to Rebecca, click here . Her father figured out that it was the antidepressants that caused her “death by misadventure” and he has written a powerful letter explaining what happened, to warn others. – Ed
The Red and Black (University of Georgia)
Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2014 11:00 am | Updated: 11:34 am, Thu Feb 13, 2014.
Note: According to her father Mark, the two SSRI drugs that Rebecca was taking were bupropion (Wellbutrin) and fluoxetine (Prozac). The coroner’s report blamed the death on “severe diphenhydramine (Benadryl) intoxication”, which was likely due to the combination the drugs she was prescribed.
On his girlfriend’s 23rd birthday on Jan. 31, Nick Daniel wrote down the words of his marriage proposal.
After two-and-a-half years, he felt it was time to ask. The couple had discussed it a few times before, but they felt getting married while in college seemed too soon.
With a marker, Daniel etched his message into a balloon and let it float skyward. Her name was Rebecca Greene, a University of Georgia student who died of environmental hypothermia from being immersed in a creek due to an overdose of diphenhydramine (Benadryl), which was classified as a suicide.
* * *
From her roots in Brunswick, Rebecca, Daniel’s girlfriend of two-and-a-half years, incessantly strove to make tiny changes in the environment around her. No difference made could be too small.
“She made me walk around our neighborhood in Brunswick and she had a little notepad with her and wrote down the address of everyone who didn’t already have a recycling can,” Daniel said. The plan was simple: the small push of giving people the tools to recycle would get more people being eco-friendly. Rebecca and Daniel ordered 20 to 30 of the recycling cans to fill out the neighborhood.
“Sure enough most of those people started having recycling cans out at the end of the driveway,” Daniel said.
With her sights set on a chemistry degree from the University of Georgia, she knew that a better world could come from her time in the lab.
“All she wanted to do was be able to be in the lab and do research for whatever it may be,” said Allie Parker, Rebecca’s roommate for a year and a half.
As a yoga instructor, a side of Rebecca bloomed as a healer for those dealing with stress. While she was going through her certification, she and Parker would wake up early to make up routines and process through the toll of the previous week.
“She was really good at it, and she always helped me find clarity,” Parker said, “and it was a good bonding time that we always shared.”
The stacks of the library became her common ground, working tirelessly into the night. Although she made time for friends and family – traveling to Brunswick to ride horses and spend time at home with her parents Mark and Carol as well as her five brothers and sisters – she kept herself focused on studying.
“I would take her to school in the morning until 3 o’clock, and then half of the time she would end up staying there in the library until 10 or 11 o’clock at night – every night,” Daniel said. “Unless she was asleep or in the shower, there wasn’t a time she wasn’t doing schoolwork for the most part.”
This driving nature of Rebecca persisted through her younger years. Being homeschooled with her siblings and working minimum-wage jobs, she developed an individual, industrious sense of self that her father, Mark likened to a snowplow. As she encountered all of the pressures and stressors of early adulthood, Mark said she knew her education would help her make it to the end.
“I grew up in Ohio and I remember the snowplows that would come out and plow and push that snow out of the way to clear the roads. She was going to push it out of the way to get down the road,” Mark said. “I think, even in her education, she was going to use it to push things out of the way to make the road clear, to make it better.”
* * *
On the day of her death, from what Mark has gathered, little was out of the ordinary. One of Rebecca’s instructors talked to her after class and said she seemed normal. She went to the library, as she was known to do, and finished around 5 p.m. At first Rebecca requested a ride from Daniel to pick her up, but then changed her mind.
“Five to 10 minutes later she texted me and said, ‘Actually, you know what, I guess I’ll just ride the bus because I kind of feel like going for a walk anyways’ with a smiley face at the end of it,” Daniel said. “And that was the last thing she ever said to me.”
It was then, Mark said, that she purchased three containers of sleep aids. Returning home, Rebecca placed her backpack under her roommate’s car and rode to the creek on her bike. The Georgia Bureau of Investigations ruled it a suicide by environmental hypothermia brought on by diphenhydramine intoxication, the common ingredient found in such sleep aids.
Mark and Carol discovered after Rebecca’s death that she was taking two antidepressants that both carried Federal Drug Administration black box warnings. The warnings alert consumers of possible adverse side effects for prescription drugs. Increased thoughts of suicide are listed on these warnings for antidepressants, particularly for adolescents and young adults under the age of 24.
In the wake of Rebecca’s death, Carol implores families to be open with one another and be aware of these prescriptions. “My cry is to students, because I’m sure at UGA there are probably thousands of students that are using [antidepressants] trying to help them deal with their stress of college life and classes and everything that goes on,” she said.
“If you are using antidepressants, let people close to you know how you’re feeling.”
* * *
Lights shone onto Rebecca’s grave as 20 of Rebecca’s friends and family gathered on Jan. 31 to celebrate her 23rd birthday. Rebecca’s mother purchased 50 helium balloons and glowsticks, releasing the luminescent material onto the balloons to glow in the dark.
All those that gathered wrote a special message to Rebecca, recounting a favorite memory before releasing the balloon. Although Daniel does not follow the same religious beliefs of the Greenes, he hoped that he would see her again in another life.
“At the end of the balloon, I said, ‘Maybe you guys are right. I hope y’all are right. I hope to see you again one day.’ And then I asked her to marry me,” Daniel said. “I said, ‘You’ve got plenty of time to think about it.”
For Parker, Daniel and the Greenes, the celebration of her birthday allowed some to learn more about her and pay their respects.
“I think it’s definitely something that we needed to do and that will help us all be together to remember her and celebrate her life,” Parker said
As each balloon left the fingertips of all those who Rebecca’s life had touched, a hard day that the Greenes imagined became brighter with the love of all those that came to commemorate her.
“Instead of it being a sad, sad evening, we were remembering all the wonderful things about Rebecca, so it made it just a little bit sweeter,” Carol said.
On Mark’s balloon read a simple message: “Rebecca, I love you and I miss you. Love, Dad.”