U.S. 36 death ends man's short life
Mother of mentally troubled man wants better public care
Daily Camera, August 11, 2003
To quiet the incessant noise in his head, Ezra McClure walked, sometimes for miles.
About 12:45 a.m. Friday, the 25-year-old took his last steps, into the right lane of westbound U.S. 36 . A half-mile west of the McCaslin Boulevard interchange, a maroon Subaru station wagon was headed toward Boulder at highway speed.
McClure, 25, a tall, muscular man hollowed out from years of fighting paranoid schizophrenia, turned his head toward the speeding car without expression. He appeared to look the driver in the eye just before impact, police said.
McClure died at Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville a few hours later. He had wanted to be an organ donor. But so extreme were his injuries that all he could give were his corneas, his mother, Maggie McClure, said Monday.
She sat on the couch of daughter Mica's Boulder apartment. Across the coffee table were spread photos of her son.
A few were taken shortly after he moved to Boulder from Syracuse, N.Y., in 1996, just after graduating from high school. He was athletic, smiling and handsome.
In others, taken three years later, his complexion had turned pallid and his gaze blank from sleepless nights and paralyzing anxiety.
Sgt. Jerry Copley of the Colorado State Patrol was at the accident scene early Friday. Although results from coroner toxicology tests are pending, Copley said there was no indication that McClure wasn't sober.
McClure had been spotted walking along U.S. 36 near the McCaslin interchange by Colorado State Patrol officers at about 10 p.m. Thursday. It's illegal to walk or ride a bike along the highway, and officers told McClure to leave the road.
They thought he had. But less than three hours later, they were responding to the 911 call.
Copley said the death appeared to be accidental.
When cleaning out his apartment Saturday, Maggie McClure found a bloodied towel in the bathroom. Ezra had cut his wrists earlier in the week.
"It was a call for help," she said.
But he left no suicide note. She thinks her son just happened into the road, immersed in his despair.
Two years ago, when Ezra appeared to be starving himself, Maggie McClure had her son committed to the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan and remained his protective shadow despite health problems of her own -- she has breast cancer. She brought food to his sparse Boulder apartment, left him money, did his laundry and, until about six months ago, took him to his appointments at the nonprofit Mental Health Center of Boulder County.
She said she feels a psychiatrist there didn't listen when, despite Ezra's assertions to the contrary, she insisted her son wasn't well.
"Ezra didn't get the right care," she said.
McClure also suspects her son's doses of anti-schizophrenia medicine were too low to be effective.
Dr. Charles Adler, a psychiatrist practicing in Denver and Boulder who knows Maggie McClure, said he never met Ezra and that there are cases in which low doses are appropriate.
But regarding Ezra's prescriptions, Adler said, "Generally speaking, those were very low doses. It did seem like that was not doing the job."
It may not have mattered. McClure said she thinks her son had stopped taking medication entirely in recent months.
The real problem, McClure said, is a lack of mental-health care for the poor.
"When you don't have any money, you don't have choices," she said.
Ezra was on Medicare disability, which she said few local private psychiatrists accept. Public institutions and some nonprofits take up the considerable slack.
"There's a tremendous workload, and funds are short," said Laura Systra, executive director of Mental Health of Boulder County.
Although she didn't comment on details of the case, Systra said she viewed Ezra's doctor as an "excellent" psychiatrist. She said it would be "a particular heartbreak if we didn't know (Ezra) was having increased trouble." She said families often have the best information on how a patient's really doing.
Now it doesn't matter.
"His suffering was so great, and I think all a mother wants is her child to be happy and safe," Maggie McClure said,
her voice breaking. "I didn't want it to be this way, but I hope he's happy and safe now."
© 2008 Todd Neff