Aussie Mum’s terrifying warning: ‘Deodorant killed my boy’


Jessica Werner, 37, from Geelong, Vic, was excited for her son Pheonix’s future.

A keen footballer, he had dreams of being a pro. But then one bad decision changed everything.

Hoping to save lives, Jessica tells her heartbreaking story.

Standing on the side of the pitch, I watched as the players streamed onto the grass.

Even from a distance, I could always spot my 11-year-old son Pheonix.

Taller than the rest of the players, my boy was a bundle of energy.

Ever since Pheonix could talk, he had been obsessed with football.

A single mum, I couldn’t help but worry about him falling in with the wrong crowd, but sport kept him on track. He even had ambitions of becoming a professional player one day.

He was also a brilliant big brother to his siblings, Makiyah, nine, Grace, four, and Mason, one.

I trusted Pheonix, but I also knew what it was like tobe a teenager. As he grew up, I talked openly to him about the temptation of drink and drugs.

‘It’s not worth risking your future,’ I told him.

But Pheonix was a smart kid with a heart of gold.

When Pheonix was 14, we moved back to our old neighbourhood.

He was at the same school, but joined a new football team and within a few weeks, his behaviour started to change.

He was slamming doors and swearing, but I just put it down to his age.

Plus, it couldn’t have been easy trying to fit in with a new team, and his hormones were all over the place.

Me with Pheonix (right) and his siblings Makiyah, Grace and Mason. Credit: Supplied
Me with Pheonix (right) and his siblings Makiyah, Grace and Mason. Credit: Supplied

Still, I kept an eye out for empty bottles of alcohol or cigarette butts in his bedroom. But the only thing I ever noticed was the overpowering smell of deodorant.

‘What have you been doing in there Pheonix?’ I laughed one day. ‘It reeks.’

‘We had a deodorant fight,’ he replied.

Typical boys, I thought.

Pheonix had been getting into trouble more frequently at school and in April 2016, he was suspended for a day over a prank.

I decided to keep him off the following day too, so we could spend it together.

‘I want to talk about what’s been going on,’ I told him.

So, I took him out to a sports shop and we picked out jumpers for each other. Afterwards, we sat down for lunch and chatted about Pheonix’s future.

‘When I’m a rich footballer, I’ll buy you a house,’ he promised.

‘I know you will,’ I laughed.

I was relieved to hear that Pheonix hadn’t given up on his dreams.

I was relieved to hear that Pheonix hadn’t given up on his dreams.

As we finished up, Pheonix spotted one of his friends.

‘Can I go to his house before football training?’ he asked me.

‘Go on then,’ I said.

He grabbed his backpack and leaned over to kiss me on the cheek.

‘Love you,’ I said.

‘You too, Mum,’ he called back as he left.

That evening, when I arrived home after being out,my neighbour knocked on my door.

‘Pheonix is in hospital,’ she told me. ‘I’ll drive you there.’

My phone battery had died, and she explained that his friend’s parents had been knocking on my door and she’d heard the commotion.

‘He’s probably broken something at football,’ I said.

But when I arrived, two police officers pulled me into a side room.

As I looked from one to another, dread swirled in my tummy.

‘Your son was inhaling deodorant,’ one of the policemen said. ‘He didn’t make it.’

‘That can’t be true,’ I said, shaking my head.

My boy Phoenix had a heart of gold. Credit: Supplied
(My boy Phoenix had a heart of gold. Credit: Supplied)

I thought back to him at lunch as he walked away in his brandnew jumper.

A sob rose in my chest, and suddenly I was screaming.

Once my mum arrived, we were led in to hisroom.

‘Just wake up, Pheonix,’ I cried. ‘Stop being stupid.’

I hoped it was just another one of his teenage pranks.

But as I tried to pull my boy into my arms to carry him home, I realised Pheonix was gone.

My handsome boy was dead.

In the weeks that followed, I was numb with grief.

In the weeks that followed, I was numb with grief.

My family rallied around me but nothing felt real.

The other kids were heartbroken too.

Pheonix was due to turn 15 soon, so instead of planning his funeral, I pretended I was planning his birthday celebration.

At the service, there was ayellow Cabriolet Commodore – the car he’d dreamed of owning – and an icecream truck serving his favourite food.

In April 2017, a year after he had died, a coronial finding was made into Pheonix’s death.

Pheonix had been at a house with other boys. He’d been inhaling deodorant – called chroming – when he became unconscious. I had no idea.

A passerby had spotted the commotion outside the house. He performed CPR for 10 minutes before the paramedics arrived, but it was no use.

It broke my heart to hear my boy’s final moments, so I poured everything into being the best mum I could be.

I found love again with my ex-partner and gave birth to twins – April and Sebastian, now three.

They know they have a big brother watching over them.

Now, I want Pheonix’s story to serve as a warning to other parents and teenagers out there.

Chroming is incredibly dangerous, just a single hit can be fatal.

My boy had his whole life ahead but all it took was one bad decision to end it all.

I’d do anything to bring Pheonix back but I’ll make sure his memory lives on forever.

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