|By Emily Foxhall, Daily Pilot, Costa Mesa, Calif.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
"Connor would not like what we're doing," she remarked, but his foot did not twitch.
Doctors had declared
Veronica's husband, Devin, held his son's leg steady as she continued to apply a mixture of brown and blue, Connor's favorite colors.
Their son's decision to donate his organs had allowed the couple extra time at his bedside. Tests needed to be run. Appropriate organ recipients had to be identified.
On the day of his surgery, Veronica had been thinking of footprints they made when Connor was little. She wanted to make another set, so her mother and father-in-law went to buy supplies at Michaels. These painted prints would commemorate his end.
"Although his footprints will no longer be walking on the earth, his imprints will still be there in so many peoples' lives," she said.
The clock ticked past
Synthetic drug is hard to trace
The previous Saturday, an otherwise healthy Connor had smoked "spice" -- a substance made from plants treated with chemicals that bind to the brain's cannabinoid receptors.
The synthetic pot is thought of as a legal, untraceable way to get high, but the effect can be orders of magnitude more powerful than marijuana, said Dr.
Also called "K2," spice can overwhelm brain circuitry, possibly leading to psychosis, kidney injury, high body temperature, heart attack or, as in Connor's case, death.
Concentrations of chemicals in spice vary, as do the chemicals themselves, making it difficult for users to know what they are smoking and how it might alter their brains.
"There's no way to tell when you cross the line from the expected effects to the lethal effects," Brant-Zawadzki said.
Whether because he stopped breathing or his heart stopped pumping blood, or both, Connor's brain was deprived of oxygen and began to swell.
Tests run at the hospital would not detect spice. The ever-changing components make it difficult for scientists to develop a standard way to trace it. But the hospital found no sign of other drugs. And he had the small, square packet of spice still in his pocket.
Legislators and law enforcement have trouble keeping up with spice too, since manufacturers simply change one part of the banned components to make it legal again.
The drug is often labeled "not for human consumption," and marketed as potpourri or incense. But many believe it is safe to smoke since it was once easily found at gas stations and head shops.
"People see it as something you can buy over the counter," said Hume, a drug recognition expert for the department. "They have the false pretense that this is something that is safe."
In reality "any synthetic cannabinoid compound, or any synthetic cannabinoid derivative" is now illegal to sell in
Connor had used other substances commonly believed to be much more dangerous, and his parents are certain he did not know spice would kill him. Instead, they think he succumbed to peer pressure and unknowingly made a fatal choice.