NJ Woman Whose Near-Fatal Heroin Overdose Went Viral, Now in Recovery
Kelly Hemphill had no idea her daughter's heroin problem had gotten so out-of-control until she saw a YouTube video of the 25-year-old's lifeless body being revived on the side of the road.
She's not the only one who viewed the disturbing images. The dramatic nine-minute video of Kelly Mae, who also goes by Kel-Mae Demore, has been viewed more than 175,000 times since last month.
In the video, Kel-Mae lies on the side of the road as her brother Rob and bystanders attempt to give her CPR. Paulsboro police soon arrive and administer a dose of the heroin antidote Narcan. Within minutes, she regains color in her face and begins breathing shallowly before paramedics and EMTs arrive and transport her to a hospital.
In recent years, this has become an all-to-frequent scenario across New Jersey as communities struggle with a serious opioid addiction epidemic
Initially, Kelmae and her family were upset that such a private and upsetting aspect of their lives had gone viral on social media. But now, as Kel-Mae continues to battle her addiction at Recovery Unplugged, a Florida rehab facility specializing in music-based therapy, the young mom says she's actually grateful to Idrise Maxey-Carmichael, the woman who filmed the video and uploaded it to YouTube.
Hemphill told New Jersey 101.5 that the experience definitely shook up her daughter. It also was a wakeup call for her as well because she was unaware of how serious Kel-Mae's heroin problem had become.
"I absolutely hated the video," Hemphill said. "At first I didn’t even know what I was looking at. When I watched it I was devastated."
Kel-Mae herself didn't watch the gruesome video for several days, avoiding it until the night before she left for rehab.
"I heard her in the other room crying and when I went in I asked what was wrong, and she said 'I'm watching the video,'" Hemphill said.
The Paulsboro native said Kel-Mae's overdose wasn't the first time one of her children has become unconscious because of the drug, but it was certainly the worst. She recalls the phone call from her son, explaining that he had to call 911 because Kel-Mae had "passed out" and was unresponsive. She said despite rumors that her daughter had collapsed while walking down the road, the situation unfolded differently.
Kel-Mae passed out while riding in her brother’s car on a Sunday in February. While they were stopped on Crown Point Road in West Deptford, Rob made the call to 911. The dispatcher instructed Rob to pull his sister out of the car and carefully lay her on the ground to begin CPR. Bystanders and first responders arrived within minutes. Kel-Mae was hospitalized and later released.
Unfortunately, Hemphill said, heroin addiction is something her entire immediate family has had to deal with for years.
I'm getting tired of going to the funeral homes.
“All of us are in recovery,” said Hemphill, who has been clean since 2008.
Her other children are also clean at the moment, although it's a constant battle to stay that way. She said things had gotten so bad that last year, she contacted the television show "Intervention" in a last-ditch attempt to help her family. At the time, Kel-Mae resisted, not wanting her personal life broadcast to the public.
Hemphill said in addition to her family's struggles, many friends have lost their lives to opioid addiction.
"I'm getting tired of going to the funeral homes," she said, adding that between recent deaths and Kel-Mae's ordeal her family "has been through so much in the past month."
Hemphill said the reaction from people who saw the disturbing footage has ranged from sympathetic to chastising. Recently, however, Kel-Mae told her mother that she has been receiving mail while in recovery from people who say they're praying for her.
"People really do care I'm alive," Ke-Mae told her mother during a recent phone call.
In a Facebook post Tuesday, Hemphill said "all the girls with her (in rehab) can't believe that people would actually care about someone who actually used heroin."
The support from her family and strangers, along with recovery program she's in have done wonders for Kel-Mae, according to Hemphill.
“She’s doing real good. She looks so amazing, so different just in a little short period of time,” Hemphill said, adding that when she first arrived in Florida, Kel-Mae fought against the program. But things soon turned around. “Her whole attitude has changed.”
Kel-Mae is due to come home later this month. Her mom says she will have a lot of challenges to face including custody issues with her young daughter, but Hemphill is proud of how far Kel-Mae - and all of her children - have come and how hard they've worked toward staying clean.
Hemphill said heroin addiction is truly terrifying in New Jersey and the problem is getting worse. Days after the video of Kel-Mae went public, Hemphill said she was contacted by drug users who asked where her daughter obtained the heroin that caused her to have such a dramatic reaction. It's not that they were trying to avoid it, Hemphill said, it's that they were looking to score the potent opioid for themselves.
As much as she hopes the video of Kel-Mae will help people struggling with opoid addiction, Hemphill said chances are, someone with a severe drug problem will probably avoid watching it.
"Nobody is watching that video who’s using dope," she said, adding that something has to be done to help curb this problem in New Jersey. "If somebody doesn’t do something about this there’s not gonna be any kids left in that age group. It’s so sad, I’m tired to going to funerals. It keeps hitting close to home."