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Health & Parenting

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15 Shots Killed Shelby Allen

What's perhaps more shocking is that the 17-year-old drank them at a friend's house, while the parents were home. Here, how her mom is fighting to make sure no other child dies this way

Shelby Allen's parents are devastated to learn what happened to their daughter

Dispatchers instructed him on how to perform CPR, urging him to continue until medical help arrived. The EMTs who arrived on the scene found a weak pulse, but were unable to revive the girl. Shelby Allen was pronounced dead at 9:40 on the morning of December 20. Her blood-alcohol content was 0.33, four times the legal driving limit for adults in California.

The Allens entered a disturbing parallel universe from that moment on. In 1987, Debbie and Steve had lost a baby to sudden infant death syndrome; they had never imagined they would have to grieve like that again. "That fear was always with me," says Debbie. "Shortly before I lost Shelby, we watched Steel Magnolias together; Shelby, the daughter, dies in the movie, and I remember thinking as I watched my dear girl next to me, How could I be without her? I told my Shelby, 'Don't ever leave this world before I do; I couldn't take it again.' We sat there sobbing together, and she said, 'Mom, don't worry; I won't!' "

Debbie and Steve slept in Shelby's bed the night she died, in an effort to feel closer to her spirit. After that, Steve couldn't go into his younger daughter's room for months. "The house was just a dead house," Debbie says. "I don't know how else to describe it. And I was left to deal with the worst kind of anguish: that I wasn't able to comfort my baby when her body was dying. I didn't get to hug her, kiss her, hold her, keep her could this be true?"

Overwhelmed by misery, the Allens struggled to make sense of what had happened. "We second-guessed everything we did that day. If only we had said she couldn't spend the night at Alyssa's house. If only we had banned sleepovers altogether," Steve says. "If only Debbie had taken her shopping in Sacramento that day, as originally planned. If only we had checked up on her, as we had in the past...if only we had known more about alcohol poisoning and binge drinking so we could have educated her...all these things go through our minds, to this day."

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