As Their Daughter Lay Dying, A Couple Waited For A Miracle That Didn’t Come


William and Penny Molloy hold photos of their daughter, Ashley, outside their home in Harbor Breton. Ashley Molloy died April 11 at Grand Falls-Windsor Hospital, a three-hour drive from Harbor Breton. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Disclaimer: This story contains discussion of suicide.

The 90 minutes Penny and William Molloy waited in April for someone to save their daughter’s life seemed like an eternity.

Their daughter Ashley, 27, was still alert, but they knew the poison from an overdose of prescription drugs was creeping deeper into her body. She refused their pleas to vomit what she had ingested.

They can see the local hospital from their front porch in Harbor Breton, a small coastal community on the south coast of Newfoundland, but on this day last month it was closed and emergency services were on what one calls a complete deviation. The nearest ambulance was about 70 kilometers away.

“Just wait,” William said. That was all they could do, he said, “Just wait for a miracle that was never about to happen.”

By the time Ashley arrived at Grand Falls-Windsor Hospital – the closest option, although it is 225 kilometers away – five hours had passed.

Ten hours later, she died, after suffering three seizures in hospital.

Penny Molloy said there was never enough support for her daughter, who had suffered from depression for years. But the day before she died, when she was most vulnerable, no one was there.

Ashley Molloy was 27 years old. Her mother says she was diagnosed with depression about ten years ago. (Submitted by Tyler Molloy)

The Molloys spoke to CBC about their daughter, her mental health struggles, and how they feel the health care system failed their family — and their rural community — when they needed it most.

Central Health, which provides medical services in the region, said in a statement that the regional health authority was not discussing specific cases. He did not respond to specific questions about the incident.

“No parent should have to go through this,” said William Molloy. “You shouldn’t have to outlive your children. Ours was taken far too soon. All because of neglect and the help she wanted but couldn’t get.

“And now we have to live with that for the rest of our lives.”

A long fight against depression

Ashley lived with depression for years, according to her mother.

She had attempted suicide before, including when she was 17, in 12th grade. At that time, the Connaigre Peninsula Health Center was open for emergency patients and the hospital was able to give her charcoal treatment to reverse the effects of the poison she had ingested.

Over the next 10 years, she tried to live her life to the fullest: she got engaged and had two children. She moved to Alberta and returned home to start her family.

Ashley Molloy, left, is pictured with her cousin’s partner at their 2017 wedding, for which Ashley was a bridesmaid. (Submitted by Tyler Molloy)

But she also attempted suicide on other occasions, her mother said, and continued to struggle with a heavy depression that prevented her from working.

Her mother said her life seemed to be improving after having her two children, who are now seven and five.

“She loved her kids, and her kids loved her,” she said. “It was all for them, the kids.”

She was a joy to be around.-William Molloy

Her mother says she wanted to get better and she did her best. But a steady stream of trips to the hospital, Penny Molloy said, usually just boiled down to a different prescription of antidepressants.

Her parents say they cannot count how many times she has seen a doctor or other medical professional. But they think the help Ashley needed was nowhere to be found.

“She screamed for help, she begged for help. But it wasn’t there,” Penny Molloy said.

Ashley also frequently had seizures, which further complicated her life. Additionally, some of his medications caused serious side effects, his parents said, including severe and persistent nausea.

“She gave up everything”

By March, Ashley’s mental health had deteriorated to an all-time low.

“She couldn’t walk around, she couldn’t be with the kids, she couldn’t do anything,” Penny said. “She couldn’t do anything on her own. She made it to the end and she wouldn’t go far. She just gave it all up.”

It was a big difference from the girl they had known. Her father said she could be fun, energetic, outgoing and helpful.

“It was a joy to be with her,” he said.

WATCH | William and Penny Molloy describe their heartbreaking loss in an interview with CBC’s Garrett Barry:

‘How do you let your baby go?’ Parents mourn their daughter who couldn’t find the help she needed

William and Penny Molloy talk about their daughter’s death, her mental health struggles and how they feel the healthcare system failed their family when they needed it most.

One Sunday morning in April, William and Penny woke up to find their daughter in their house with a bottle of Venlafaxine in her hand. She was always alert; she even told her parents that she had taken antidepressants.

But she wouldn’t accept trying to squeeze them out of her stomach. Her father tried to force her to vomit, and it didn’t work.

“I know now that I was doing wrong,” he said. “But at the time, I just thought I was trying to save her. Nobody else would.”

Penny said the family didn’t want to drive themselves because there’s almost no cell phone service along the long, lonely road to Grand Falls-Windsor. They said there would be no way to ask anyone for help if their daughter’s condition suddenly turned during the ride.

All they could do, they said, was wait.

” Hopeless. It felt like it was never going to show,” Penny said.

“I hugged her like I was handling a little baby, wanting her to be okay,” her dad added. “I wanted the ambulance to be there so quickly.”

According to Penny and William Molloy, by the time Ashley arrived at the Grand Falls-Windsor ER, the charcoal treatment – ​​which had saved her before – was no longer an option. They said an x-ray revealed that the pills had penetrated too far into his body.

The journey from Harbor Breton, NL to Grand Falls-Windsor Hospital is along a rough rural road. (Radio-Canada News)

She suffered three seizures in the hospital. After the third, her father said, doctors at the Central Newfoundland Regional Health Center said they could not continue.

“The doctor came out and said, ‘Come in with her and hold her hand,'” William said.

“How do you let go of your baby? We had to come in, sit by her bedside, hold her hand. The last seconds she hung on, I hugged her, held her in my arms.” She looked up at me with a big smile on her face, her eyes widened as wide as they could.

“She just died.”

Raising their daughter’s children

On Ashley’s grave in Harbor Breton Roman Catholic Cemetery rest two bouquets of fabric flowers. The colors – pink and purple – were chosen by her two daughters.

They now live with their grandparents, and Penny and William Molloy get them ready for school every day.

They have an “impossible” job, they said: trying to explain to the two girls where their mother is.

” How do you do ? How do you tell them? said William. “When you pass one day you have your mom, the next day you don’t have a mom?”

Ashley’s two daughters each chose colors for the fabric flowers that decorate her grave. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

When they got home from the hospital, William said, he took Ashley’s coat with him and her shoes were still at home.

Ashley’s oldest daughter saw him packing up her things.

“Sophia said, ‘Pop! See, you cheated on me!’ I said, ‘Why, baby?’ She said, ‘Mom is here!’ I said, ‘No, baby. Mama’s not here.'”


Where to get help:

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 (phone) | 45645 (Text, 4 p.m. to midnight ET only) | crisisservicescanada.ca

In Newfoundland and Labrador: 24-hour Mental Health Crisis Line: 1-888-737-4668

In Quebec (French): Quebec Association for the Prevention of Suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (phone), live chat at www.kidshelpphone.ca

Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour crisis center

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