A Donegal mother who tragically lost her son after he took a ‘legal high’ is to appear on the hit ITV programme The Jeremy Kyle show to raise more awareness on the issue.
Karen Vandersypen, from Foxhills in Letterkenny, tragically lost her son Jimmy Guichard in October 2013 after he took an unknown substance.
Jimmy died after he suffered a massive heart attack and also suffered brain damage as a result of taking the ‘legal high’.
Karen has campaigned tirelessly for new legislation called Jimmy’s Law’ in the UK to be passed which bans all ‘legal highs’ across Britain.
Jimmy was a talented GAA player and played hurling for St Eunan’s before he moved to London.
Karen done a documentary programme with Jeremy Kyle for the Kyle-Files which is a spin-off show from his morning segment.
However, after filming the documentary for the Kyle-Files executive producers felt it would be better if Karen appeared on the TV show in order for her to hammer her home her views.
Karen admitted to Donegal Daily that she had reservations about appearing on The Jeremy Kyle show.
Karen said, “I did a documentary film for the Kyle-Files about Jimmy’s death and the importance of passing his legislation.
“I was then contacted by one of the executive producers who said they weren’t going to use my film for the Kyle-Files and felt it would be better if I went on the TV show and told my story on that platform.
“I did have reservations about it, it’s not a show I would watch regularly, but I had seen it before and I used to think why the hell would you go on that TV show!
“So I was a bit nervous about doing it, but Jeremy had been so nice during the filming of the Kyle-Files that I said to the executive producers I would do it.”
Karen said the show was a daunting experience, but it was very worthwhile and was delighted with how it turned out although it didn’t get off to a good start.
Karen said, “The show was about a 24-year-old who was addicted to Pandora’s Box, which is a synthetic cannabis and is a recognized legal high.
“Jeremy had his wife on first and she was giving him an ultimatum saying he either quit his habit or she was leaving him and taking their three children with him.
“She said he was a good dad, but admitted he was ‘high’ when he took the children to school every morning because he had to have some Pandora’s Box before he left the house.
“At that point Jeremy starting saying, ‘How could he be a good dad if he’s high taking them to school?
“I was sitting watching this backstage and then the father ran on to the stage and start berating Jeremy with insults and then stormed off.
“I was watching this unfold thinking what the hell have I let myself in for here?
Karen said they calmed the father down backstage and managed to get him back on stage for the remainder of the show.
Jeremy told the young man that he had to listen to Karen’s story, he agreed.
“I then went on and told Jimmy’s story, I got very emotional and broke down several times as I told the story.
“I’m hoping they edit out all the blubbering I did, I was so mad at myself afterwards that I couldn’t control my emotion.
“Once I told Jimmy’s story, I went through the young lad for a shortcut, I basically told him he’ll end up like Jimmy if he doesn’t sort his life out.
“He’s got a beautiful supportive wife and three gorgeous kids, he’s going to lose them and his life if he doesn’t sort himself out.
“I explained to him that my granddaughter still can’t understand why her Uncle Jimmy went to heaven.
“She was six and-a-half when Jimmy passed away and is eight now and she still doesn’t understand.
“I said to him, do you want your missus to have to try and explain to your children why you’re not with them anymore.”
Karen added that the problem with his addiction is it’s not a physical one.
“Taking heroin is a physical addiction, taken a legal high is a psychological one so it’s difficult to detox.
“The other problem is there’s no resources to help him so it’s going to be difficult, his GP can’t refer him anywhere because there’s no facilities that treat that type of addiction.
Karen said she was frightened and shocked by the effect the drugs had on the 24-year-old saying he looked older than her and she’s 44.
They also done tests on the show and found out he had the lung capacity of a 70-year-old.
“Not only do we need to get ‘Jimmy’s Law’ passed we need to ensure the proper rehab facilities and in place to help those addicted to those legal highs.
“If we don’t have the proper support systems in place then they’ll get addicted to something else.
Karen appeared on the show on Friday morning and flew back home that evening and is now back at her address in Letterkenny.
She said the show will air in the next 6-8 weeks.
Karen has been keeping in touch with the couple she met on the show and has been speaking to them via Facebook offering them support and advice.