Closure from the Medical Examiner’s Office

It is with great sadness — yet in the hope that her tragic end might save another — that I report the cause of my beloved Allie’s death. She may have taken too much over-the-counter cold medication (generic Nyquil) that night before she got ready for bed. The cough suppressant dextramethorphan interacted with prescription pain medication that she took for endometriosis and, as the pathologist at the Davidson County Medical Examiner’s Office told me, it shut down the mechanism in her brain that controls the “will to breathe.”

So she essentially just drifted off to sleep, then coma, then death. She felt no pain.

I say she “may have taken too much,” because Dr. Adele Lewis, the pathologist, told me that 10–20% of people are what’s called “slow metabolizers” of dextramethorphan, and that could account for the extremely high level of the drug that they found in her blood. In other words, a pretty fair chunk of society doesn’t process the drug like it’s supposed to be processed, so multiple doses even as directed can accumulate and stay active in the body. I want to point out that this is a very common over-the-counter medication for cough suppression, and it’s been around for 50 years. There are documented cases of accidental overdose death with this drug, so it’s not something to play around with, especially when mixed with prescription medication.

Some idiotic people actually abuse the drug, but that certainly wasn’t my Allie. She just didn’t feel good, so she took something she had taken many times before. We’ll just never know for certain how much she took or when.

As I researched the possible causes of the sudden death of a young, healthy woman, something like this was high on the list. It is profoundly sad, because her death was an accident, and accidents — at least one like this — can be prevented. I don’t dwell on that, however, because it will keep me forever bound to the past, and the best way I can honor her and her life is to live on and be well.

It took a long time for the Medical Examiner to piece this all together, and I am extremely grateful for their assistance. It has been agonizing for me and Alicia’s entire family, but now we know. And this will help us with our grieving. There aren’t words in any language to adequately express the loss of someone like her, so I won’t try.

I’m moving to Dallas next week to begin another chapter in my life, one that she had a major role in developing (and is likely orchestrating from the world beyond). I need this move, this change, this turning-of-the-page. The headstone on her grave will be up soon, and it contains the last words I ever said to her: “He gives to His beloved, sleep.”

She is gone, but her memory will always be with me.


  1. Terry,
    Thanks for sharing such a personal matter with others. We will pray for you and your move to Dallas. Thanks for your contributions to us all.

  2. Terry, my thoughts are with you. Good luck with the change ahead. It was a pleasure meeting you while you were here, and hopefully see you more on your returns.

  3. Todd Mundt says

    Terry — thanks for sharing your thoughts and the beautiful picture.

  4. George Lowry says


    We don’t know each other but when I read of your loss, I looked over at my wife of thirty years and had some dim sense of how devasted I would be were I to lose her.

    Thank you for sharing what you have recently learned with all of us. I will be passing along a link to this post to my wife, daughters and other loved ones.

    Wishing you happiness in your Dallas chapter,
    George Lowry
    Placerville, CA

  5. Terry,

    I’m so sorry about Allie. I’m glad you at least have answers.

    I am, however, glad to see you’re coming to Dallas. We need more good people like you. Hope to see you again soon.


  6. Thanks for posting this. Like others, I’ve never heard of any dangers regarding these night-time cold medicines.
    I hate to see you leave Nashville. Hope you’ll drop back in the station just once more.
    God speed my friend.

  7. I so appreciate your being so open about your whole journey from the day it happened until now. We tend to think over-the-counter is nothing to give a second thought to.

    God bless you as you move forward in this new adventure.

  8. Thanks for letting us know. I’m glad you have some answers now and have educated us about the possible dangers.

    Good luck with the move and let us know how it’s going, soon!

  9. I admire the fact you were willing to share something so personal and painful with all of us. I hope your healing can begin.
    Please make sure and send me your new address so I know where to send the certificate for the tree I planted in her name.
    Best of luck to you in Dallas.
    Sharon Cobb

  10. Terry, I’m glad to hear that this news will provide further closure for you (and Alicia’s family). NyQuil should have a gigantic warning label slapped on it.

  11. thank you for sharing this, Terry…

    We women often have health/metabolism differences than the rest of the population. For one thing, as we get over 40, we get slower. Lots of different things in our bodies account for this which leads to us being under-diagnosed or sometimes over-medicated (as few consider the interactions of the various medications we might be prescribed)

    Good luck in your move forward. As you have said, this is what Allie helped you lay the groundwork to do. She will always be with you.

  12. Thank you for the information…as Chris stated earlier, “Nyquil should have a gigantic warning label slapped on it.” I’m a big guy. In the past I always taken a double dose of it. Lately, I have heard of other weird problems associated with it — including stomach problems. After reading all this — I’m not taking it again.

  13. Terry,

    Thank you for sharing such a profoundly personal story, and the best of luck in your pursuit of the next chapter of your life.

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