It was Saturday night, and Melissa Aho thought her 15-year-old daughter was having a sleepover at a friend’s house. But the next time she saw her, Ryleigh was lifeless, foaming from the mouth and covered in her own vomit, waiting for an ambulance to rush her to hospital.
That terrifying ordeal was the result of a dangerous alcohol binge, one so traumatic that Melissa has shared the story on Facebook in hope that it might “prevent another child from going through this and another parent [from enduring] what I have”.
In the post, which has since been shared more than 42,000 times, the Massachusetts mother said her daughter was the kind of girl that would always communicate with her, check in with her when she went out.
“But her plans changed that night and the series of events that followed are nothing that any family should have to experience.”
Ryleigh, 15, said she was staying at a friend's house. Image: Facebook.
Melissa's nightmare began at around 1am when she received a Facebook message to say Ryleigh had passed out. She didn't want to believe it, but desperate phone calls and frantic messages went unanswered. Nothing.
A short time later, Ryleigh was dropped home and the ambulance was already en route.
"She was unresponsive, since we didn't have many details except she had been drinking vodka, we weren't sure if she was given or taken anything else," wrote Melissa.
Anti-opiate drugs didn't work. Ryleigh was still unconscious and her airway not strong enough to work on its own. Doctors hooked her up to a ventilator and transferred her to a larger hospital.
"I suffered 14 long hours pleading and begging for my daughter's life, experiencing flashbacks from the moment she was born, to her first smile and giggle, the first time she said 'Mumma', her first step, her 1st birthday, her first day of school, her first friendship, sleepover, sickness, her graduation from middle school, our private mother daughter moments, laughing, joking, running, snuggling and so forth," she wrote.
"I was thinking of her siblings and what losing her would do to them and the rest of her family and all of the people that love her."
For hours, Ryleigh was unable to breathe on her own. Image: Facebook.
Thankfully, 14 hours later, Ryleigh opened her eyes.
"We are on our way to a long recovery due to breathing issues, bodily injury from her repeatedly falling while intoxicated, lacerations to her eye, and the worry she doesn't develop a pneumonia from vomit being in her lungs, so we are not fully out of the woods yet, but she is home, safe and as comfortable as she can be right now," wrote Melissa.
And that's largely thanks, Melissa believes, to one girl. One girl Ryleigh barely knew. The other teens fled, presumably out of fear of being punished, but she stayed.
"That one girl SAVED my daughters life by contacting someone who could get ahold [sic] of me and if it were not for her the reality of it is I would be burying my daughter this week," she wrote.
And that is the crux of Melissa's message.
To teenagers, she writes: "I'm sharing our experience so that EVERY TEEN who may come to be in this situation knows....you will NOT get in trouble for getting someone help!!!! You have the ability to SAVE a precious life!!!!!"
And to parents: "My 42kg child had a 2.8 blood alcohol level," she wrote. "Don't ever think this couldn't happen to you because it is very real and it's everywhere!!!"