Teen fights for life after taking cocktail of alcohol and prescription drugs
A traumatised family are pleading with young people to stop taking lethal cocktails of street and prescription drugs as they watch their teenage son fight for his life.
Aaron Strong was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital at 8am on Saturday after suffering a massive heart attack caused by a cocktail of the pocket-money poisons.
He had been drinking alcohol with Tramadol, a post-operative painkiller, taking a diabetes drug called Lyrica and street drug 'Budweiser' while at a friend's house.
Paramedics revived Aaron at the scene but he remains in a coma in intensive care with brain damage and complications from kidney and liver failure.
His distraught family have been keeping a bedside vigil and have appealed for the community to keep praying for him to pull through.
The 18-year-old was due to start a new job as a labourer yesterday in Bournemouth, and would have celebrated his birthday next Monday with twin brother Ryan.
The Strong family say they are determined not to let another young person end up the same way or let more parents suffer as they watch their child cling to life.
Aaron, from Glenalina Road in Ballymurphy, west Belfast, is a former pupil of Corpus Christi College.
He was described by a relative as a "great kid who loves life and loved to tinker with engines and anything mechanical".
His uncle Emmanuel Strong (54) said the accidental overdose had left the whole family devastated.
"He had such a bright future ahead of him," he said.
"He had a new job and opportunities to come."
Mr Strong added: "Aaron wasn't a big drinker, I've never known him to be taking these drugs.
"I don't know why he took them but I know in my heart that he just took one too many.
"He then went to bed and suffered a heart attack, but he wasn't found until the next morning.
"It's so hard for us to see him lying there in intensive care not responding, and we know that it'll be a matter of time before the doctors turn off the machine which is breathing for him.
"I wish young people could see how dangerous these drugs are - they are pure poison.
"You just want them to see Aaron there like that, to make these young people see how dangerous they are and what they do to them. But Aaron wasn't the first, and unfortunately he won't be the last.
"I just wish young people could see the damage they cause - the aftermath - if they would just think first of their family sitting around their hospital bedside crying, devastated.
"We just would never want another family to go through this awful experience.
"It's absolutely heartbreaking to see another young life destroyed by this poison."
Mr Strong, who works with people with addiction issues, recalls Aaron as a popular teen who loved cars and motorcycles and who was looking forward to celebrating his birthday in England. "Aaron was just a good lad.
"He would go round with a strimmer and cut people's gardens for them to help them out. He wouldn't take the money for it, that's the sort of guy he was.
"Even while we were at the hospital we met a woman who said that he had offered to do her garden last week, but it needed tidied up first, and he said "no problem, I'll do that for you too".
"He was a fantastic kid, he was a big guy, like a 6ft rugby player. He was strong and he loved life."
Since the incident hundreds of prayers have been said across the city through an appeal on a community site that urged people to "storm Heaven for an 18-year-old young man called Aaron Strong in RVH tonight".
It's an appeal that the family say they have taken great comfort from.
"We want to thank everyone who has prayed for us, lit candles and taken the time to support us," Mr Strong said.
"It's been such a difficult time, but the fact that so many people have sent us such beautiful messages, the support has just been immense and we are really grateful that we are remembered in people's prayers.
"If we can deter one person from destroying their life, we will be pleased.
"We just hope that by sharing Aaron's story it might make other young people think and realise what they are doing to themselves and their families."