Eleven-year-old Deborah Brown lined up 12 pills. It was a potent mix of medications, including seco barbital, phenobarbital and meth
aqualone. Even a small mistake in dosing could be fatal. Th pills were for Deborah’s mother to be taken every six hours to ease the pain of aggressively metastasizing cancer.
Deborah frequently cut school to make sure her mother was all right. One day, she found her passed out and bleeding. “The day I found my mother in the bathtub, I thought I had killed her,” Deborah said. But her mother had a pulse, and Deborah helped her into bed.
Despite the trauma, Deborah continued to help care for her mother, in addition to cooking, cleaning and minding two younger brothers.
Deborah was 12 when her mother died. Her father took on extra hours at work to pay the medical bills, so she continued to run her family’s household.