Skip to main content
Neighborhood
Southwest Orange Wednesday, May 5, 2021 1 year ago

Windermere mother keeping daughter’s spirit alive

Share
Connie Koch’s team, Lyndsey’s Legacy, raised several thousand dollars for a national organization that aims to stop the stigma of substance addiction and to treat it like the chronic disease it is.
by: Amy Quesinberry Community Editor

Connie Koch keeps framed photos of her oldest daughter, Lyndsey, nearby — propped up in the dining room, hung on the wall, displayed on a counter in a small room just off the kitchen — to remind her of the child who was so full of life.  

Dancing Lyndsey poses in a recital costume. Princess Lyndsey waves a star-shaped wand and wears a shimmery hat and sweet smile. Big Sister Lindsey loves on her twin sisters. Mama Lyndsey dotes on her infant son.

The Windermere woman is still grieving the death of her 21-year-old daughter two years ago, but she is turning that grief into action in hopes of sparing another family the immense pain the Kochs have endured since Lyndsey’s fatal overdose.

Koch formed the Lyndsey’s Legacy team for Shatterproof, a national organization that aims to stop the stigma of substance addiction and to treat it like the chronic disease it is. She and her family and friends walked a virtual 5K along the West Orange Trail in Winter Garden. Her team raised more than $2,100; nationally, nearly $300,000 was collected.

“I’m proud of this organization,” she said. “Our mission is to end stigma so people will seek the help they need and families will stop hiding the problem until it’s too late. (We need to) help reverse the addictions crisis in our country.

Shatterproof calls for effective awareness and education, as well as affordable, easy-access, long-term medical care for individuals suffering with mental and emotional issues and Substance Use Disorder.

“Parents are tired of burying their kids; they’re tired of not speaking up when they see the devastation of this illness,” Koch said. “We’re not taking it anymore.”

 

LYNDSEY’S STORY

Lyndsey was born after 10 years of infertility and was the family’s first grandchild, so life was perfect after her birth, Koch said. The new mother stayed home with her baby and homeschooled her when she was older.

As Lyndsey grew older, she got interested in musical instruments, tennis, dance and cheer.

Koch said looking back, Lyndsey was the victim of “the perfect storm” that contributed to her illness — including a hereditary predisposition, a tonsillectomy and adenoid removal that were treated with opioids, and several life-changing events when she was 12.

She was diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and prescribed Vyvanse; her cat died; an economic setback in 2008 forced the family to move and Koch to get a job; and after seven years of homeschooling, Lyndsey was uncomfortable as the new girl at a private school. A year later, she started public middle school, where she made friends with the wrong people, Koch said.

“Lyndsey’s friends started messing around with alcohol and a variety of drugs, and she quickly fell into the trap of self-medicating to help ease her anxiety and sleeplessness,” she said. “From that point, all our lives quickly became a blur of brokenness, fear, shame and silence about what was happening to our funny, loving, bright and beautiful daughter. Lyndsey felt ashamed, judged and trapped by the stigma surrounding addiction for nine long years, and so did we.”

The spiral began when Lyndsey and her friends discovered and drank too much apple-flavored vodka and she vomited and passed out. This was the first of several overdoses. It wasn’t long before a boy at her school started bullying her daily, and this outgoing and social girl lost her confidence.

“The bullying just really set it off to want to self-medicate,” Koch said. “With ADHD, they are so much more likely to try to find some relief, to self-medicate because they want to feel better.”

Lyndsey’s addictions progressed to stronger drugs, and she overdosed twice more before the final and fatal episode.

She knew the stigma of drug addiction and was suffering in silence.

“She said, ‘Look what drugs are doing to me. They’re taking everything away from me, all my dreams I had,’” Koch said.

At the time of her death, Lyndsey actually was getting her life back on track, Koch said. She had a fiancé and a baby and had plans to go to college.

 

ADVOCATING

Lyndsey died May 6, 2019. She had been fighting high anxiety and sleeplessness, and she and a friend met with a third person to buy Xanax. Koch said it was laced with fentanyl. Lyndsey was in the hospital and in a coma for nine days before being declared brain dead.

Koch is now on a mission to get better training for first responders who are dealing with a drug overdose; better education for families in crisis; and long-term care for people with mental and emotional illnesses that is affordable for families.

Connie Koch wants all parents to be aware of the statistics.

Lyndsey stayed in an Orlando treatment center for four months — until the family could no longer afford the exorbitant expense.

“How can people get strong enough to recover, and how can we get them resources that they need?” Koch said. “I found Shatterproof, whose founder’s son passed away from the same illness (Substance Use Disorder) and suffered from the stigma of not wanting anyone to know. That’s when I started learning about the illness. … It’s called hijacking of the brain. I had to learn that after she passed. If they’re that far, their mind is lying to them. I was naïve.”

Koch finds comfort in remembering all that was good about her daughter.

“Even with this illness, she was still a loving and giving friend, a loyal friend who would give anybody anything she had,” she said. “She would share anything she had, do anything for anybody.

“She cared about other people,” Koch said. “She was an organ donor and gave life to several others. She has a good legacy to be a loving and caring person, and she would want others to not suffer and wouldn’t want people to be ashamed to get help and wouldn’t want their family to be ashamed to get help.”

The Koch family has many mementos of their daughter, Lyndsey, including a small braid of her hair and a vial containing a printout of her heartbeat.

Koch has written memorials on shatterproof.org and on stop-overdose.org. She wants to share Lyndsey’s story as many times as possible.

“I just pray that God will turn it to His glory and He will use it for other families to be strong and aware,” she said. “Using mercy over judgment, that’s the motto for me. Don’t judge me; you haven’t walked in my shoes.”

Lyndsey once asked her mother, “Why do people hate drug addicts when they just feel more than other people do and cannot cope with it?”

Koch said: “What would you do if the walls were closing in and you felt such a panic attack all the time? Would you try to self-medicate, would you try to find the answer? And that’s what they feel. And they don’t know how to get better.

“She just had a strong spirit,” she said. “I know she wanted to get well for her son. She never wanted to leave to go get extra help … because she didn’t want to be away from her son even for a day. She definitely thought that (she could beat this). I don’t think she realized how difficult this was going to be.”

 

The Observer has invested in new technology, so you can enjoy a more personalized online experience. By creating a user profile on OrangeObserver.com, you can manage settings, customize content, enter contests and more, all while continuing to enjoy all the local news you care about — Click Here it's FREE.

Amy Quesinberry is the community editor of the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She was born and raised in Winter Garden, grew up reading the community newspaper and has been employed there as a writer, photographer and editor since 1990....

See All Articles by Amy

Related Stories

Advertisement