- Associated Press - Saturday, January 18, 2014

RIDLEY PARK, Pa. (AP) - Nancy Shedlo hears the word heroin and has the same thought every time.

“I think death,” said Shedlo, a 64-year-old Ridley Park grandmother whose two daughters were among four family members she’s lost to the drug in two years, most recently on Christmas Day 2013.

Daughter Michele Rae Carney, 46, overdosed in her home in Collingdale on June 2, 2011. Five months later, on Nov. 11, daughter Stacie Lee Burnell, 36, whose heroin addiction led her to living on the streets of Chester, was shot and killed just hours after being released from prison - presumably by a dealer she’d ripped off. Her murder remains unsolved.

For Shedlo, news of 42-year-old John Carr’s heroin death on Dec. 25 was sad, but it didn’t open old wounds.

“They never really close,” said Shedlo. She still attends bereavement groups, including Parents of Murdered Children.

John Carr, of Linwood, was the brother of Robert Carr, Shedlo’s son-in-law. The Carrs’ sister, 49-year-old Deborah Conrad of Middletown, overdosed on heroin and died Nov. 1, 2013, the birthday of one of her six children.

“It’s horrible,” Shedlo said of the toll that heroin has had on her family.

Shedlo thinks her granddaughter Sadie Burnell, Stacie’s 19-year-old daughter, said it best.

“You become invisible,” she said. “There’s a part of you that is always gone.”

For Shedlo, it’s personally been a long 20-year struggle.

“As a parent, you feel helpless. You take them to rehab, to therapy. You do all these things and they do good, for a while,” she said. “That moment’s choice is all it takes.”

According to county authorities, 284 residents died from heroin between 2007 and 2012.

Last week, Delaware County Examiner Dr. Fredric N. Hellman said incidents of heroin-related deaths are plateauing in the county. According to Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan, there is no indication that use is leveling off.

At Blessed Virgin Mary Roman Catholic Church in Darby, the Rev. Joseph Corley said they’ve dedicated a shrine and painting of “Our Lady of Light” to the many parishioners battling addictions, as well as “a good number of others” who have died.

Shedlo said daughter Michele, a 1983 graduate of Chester High School and a mother of two, battled a drug addiction for at least 20 years. She was 36 when she began using heroin.

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