Scouts-L Mail Archive for August of 1999: Huffing and heartbreak (long)
Huffing and heartbreak (long)
Thu, 12 Aug 1999 19:42:40 EDT
Oh, my friends, today was a heartbreaking day for us here. Our troop, along
with many other Scouts and Scouters including the Philmont crews just
returned, served as honor guard for our SPL's funeral at Corpus Christi
Parish in Sandwich, MA, this morning.
Ben Perry was the best. Almost 16, a Life Scout beginning to plan his Eagle
push, he was in his second 6-month term as SPL, providing leadership, good
fellowship, and reliability in all his duties. He did his OA ordeal this past
Spring and was so proud of his sash. He was funny, he was smart. He had a
large circle of friends, was on the all-star baseball team for 3 yrs, came
from a huge loving and supportive family including two older brothers in
their 20's who are Eagles and a dad who was a SM for 14 years, a mom who is a
beloved teacher and Scouting supporter (how could she help it?<G>). He was
one of those incredible kids whose smile just always lit up the room, who
everyone was always glad to see, of whom everyone had a funny story
illustrating his goofiness and grace and charm. He was just coming into his
own as a young man, having learned a lot in his first SPL term and giving
evidence of growing into the confidence in natural leadership which is so
hard to define and so impossible to overlook when it's there in front of you.
He returned from a 100-mile trek at Philmont at 0100 Sunday morning with a
two-week beard and a lifetime of stories. He spent two hours excitedly going
over it all with his parents, then tumbled into bed with more to tell the
next day. He slept in, of course; his dad didn't disturb him when he went out
to work at 0730; his mom left him a note saying she was going to a shower &
would be back around 1700. He got up, called a few friends & made plans to
see them later, took a shower and shaved clean, and then at some time in the
early afternoon picked up a ziploc bag, poured some white gas, perhaps, in
it, and took a deep breath or two, probably no more. According to the Medical
Examiner his brain died within 120 seconds, and his heart stopped in about 5
minutes. His mom, Claire, came home about 1730 & found him.
Jim, his dad, called at work, was directed to go directly to the hospital;
arriving before the ambulance he saw them bring in his boy in full arrest
with full-scale resuscitation ongoing. But the doctor came out in about 15
minutes and told him Ben was gone.
Two days later Jim and his two older boys came to our troop meeting place to
tell us the story. He told the boys and parents that he wanted them to hear
it full and complete, as I have given it here, so there would be no false
information and so they would know exactly what happened to Ben. He said that
even if CPR had been given immediately, it is probable that Ben would have
been "something we could not be proud of." He told the boys that we all make
mistakes, we all do things we regret, and we learn from them; in this case,
he said, his son was endlessly curious, which is one reason he excelled in so
many things; he wasn't afraid to try almost anything. But this time he made a
mistake that he could not walk away from, and he died nearly instantly. You
could have heard a pin drop, except for the sound of all the parents in the
back trying to suppress tears.
We had a group of counselors who spoke with the Philmont crew and the other
boys in separate groups, and the parents separately, and then we all came
back together to share information about the wake & funeral. This has been
the hardest week of our Scouting life. We have all hugged our children extra
this week. All our children have seen us crying. All of us grieve for Ben's
loss and for the unfathomable sorrow his family must be enduring; we pray
that their strong religious faith will be a comfort to them.
Ben's dad gave permission for me to share this story with you for the same
reason he showed the courage to speak with the boys with such grace in a time
of unspeakable grief: if one other child hears this story and is stopped from
experimenting with a thing that will kill him, it will make this awful
tragedy worth something.
Please, let your boys know about the very real and fatal dangers of
"huffing," attempting to get high by inhaling volatile substances. Lungs are
fabulously efficient at transmitting vaporized substances into the blood
stream; blood flow to the brain is high and swift. The reason huffing gives
that high feeling is because as brain cells are in extreme distress they give
off substances to protect themselves from pain...but they cannot protect
themselves from the chemicals that are damaging them. Huffing CAN kill in
just a heartbeat, and does, without any time to let you say, "Oops, big
mistake, don't like this, won't do this again." Ben can never have a chance
to learn not to make this mistake again. He is gone from us forever.
Thank you for taking the time to read all this. It's been hard. Any
condolences to the Perry family can be sent to me and I will forward them.
SA T47 Sandwich MA
Cape Cod & Islands Council
Abake MiSaNaKi Lodge #393
NSJ 1997 Nat'l Health & Safety
I useta be an Eagle...