LEAD S.D. (KEVN TV) - Fentanyl is a narcotic that can treat severe pain. It is highly addictive. In 2016 over 60,000 people lost their lives to the drug. One of those, Grace Fitzgerald.
Grace was once a talented baker and dedicated mother.
"My sister was a very loving and caring person. She was a sister who was there for us no matter what. She always made us funny cards, she was really just family oriented," said Grace's sister Beth Staeckler.
The 24-year-old battled a heroin addiction for years but her sister Beth says it was fentanyl that ultimately killed Grace Fitzgerald. A drug she had never heard of until it claimed her life.
"She didn't know the consequences of the fent. It was new, she didn't know what it was and that stuff is very dangerous. You only need a grain of sand and you're not going to come back from that," said Staeckler.
The Fitzgerald's grew up on Long Island in New York. In a family of 7, Beth and Grace were inseparable. Beth first moved to South Dakota in 2014 and opened a restaurant, The Sled Haus, with her husband. Grace at that time was sober and found out she was pregnant with her daughter Penelope.
She knew she wanted to make a big change for her and her daughter's life, and followed her sister Beth to Lead in January of 2016.
"Grace was clear for a while. She realized that she needed to be around for daughter. Penelope was Grace's world," said Staeckler.
In June 2016, Grace reconnected with her baby's father. The two ingested heroin laced with fentanyl and that was the last day Beth saw her sister alive.
"You know the last words I said to her was I love you and then she got out of my car and she said I love you too and she got in her house and that was it, that was the last time I saw her," said Staeckler.
There's not a day that goes by that Beth doesn't think about Grace. Her face, her smile, and her laugh. She says for anyone struggling the best thing to do, is to reach out for help.
"This is the aftermath. It's not always about you. You have to think about everyone around you. You are a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, a mother, a father. There are people here that need you. You might think that you need that drug but you don't. Your family needs you," said Staeckler.
Grace's ex-boyfriend survived the night and was charged with manslaughter for the death of Grace Fitzgerald. The trial is set in Deadwood for March 4th
As always if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction we urge you to reach out. You can call the Care Campus in Rapid City at (605) 394-6128.