The family of a 14-year-old Ottawa girl who died suddenly this week is expressing concern about the “epidemic nature” of high-grade pharmaceutical use among young people.
Chloe Kotval, a student at All Saints Catholic High School in Kanata, died after taking a pharmaceutical drug of unknown origin, her family said in a statement on Thursday.
“Chloe had a spark of life in her that was pure sunshine,” her parents Shannon Edwards and Neville Kotval said in the statement. “The hole left by the loss of our beautiful daughter will never be filled.
“Chloe made a horrible mistake and ultimately paid a dear price, but drugs were not a part of her life.”
Chloe’s mother discovered her non-responsive on Sunday, and she was rushed to CHEO. Tests showed she had suffered complete and irreversible loss of brain function.
On Tuesday, her organs were donated. Police are investigating the exact cause of her death.
In the statement, Chloe’s parents described her as a well-loved, compassionate person with a sunny disposition.
“She was an animal lover who, on frequent family vacations to Bahamas, devoted her energy and much of her beloved bingo winnings to the North Abaco Potcake Rescue for mixed breed Caribbean dogs,” they said.
Kotval and Edwards also expressed concern about the rising use of pharmaceuticals among young people.
“We are concerned about the epidemic nature of the use of high grade pharmaceuticals amongst young people and their lack of knowledge about them – the consequences of using them are real and terrible.”
On Wednesday, students at All Saints and at other schools across the city wore green in Chloe’s memory. Counselling services have been offered to students.
In a statement, Ottawa Catholic School board director of education Denise Andre said the board and school's crisis response teams have been deployed.
"We will continue to focus on supporting the students and staff at All Saints High School with grief counselling as they deal with this tragedy," she said.
"Students and staff will have access to counsellors, chaplains, psychologists and social workers for as long as needed."
Kotval's funeral is scheduled for Sunday. The high school is planning a memorial next week.
The family statement said Chloe appeared to be struggling with some “typical teenage issues” in recent weeks. Her parents sought help for her, including through a counsellor. They were worried, but not alarmed.
Although it’s unknown what exactly caused the apparent overdose on Sunday, it came a day before a fresh warning from Ottawa Public Health and Ottawa Police about counterfeit prescription drugs.
On Monday, Ottawa Public Health issued the warning about counterfeit pills suspected to have been involved in life-threatening overdoses.
The warning said pills laced with fentanyl that resemble prescription drugs have previously been found in Ottawa.
Fentanyl is an opioid about 100 times more powerful than morphine, which can be fatal in very small doses.