When the Arizona Cardinals played the Carolina Panthers at University of Phoenix Stadium last Sunday, one of the Cards’ most faithful followers — Matthew Errico of Scottsdale — told his father he was in too much pain to attend.
His father, Danny Errico, planned to take him to the game. But the pain from a nearly three-year-old back injury was too much for Matthew to go on, and the next day, Matthew took his own life.
The 20-year-old was pronounced dead Monday night at Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn hospital shortly after he politely filled out some paperwork and paid $48 to rent a handgun at the Scottsdale Gun Club.
Minutes later, he fired a few rounds at a target, then turned the gun on himself in front of workers and patrons — and fired.
PAIN REVEALED IN NOTE
Matthew made references to his severe and chronic back pain in the suicide note police found in his back pocket, family members told the Tribune.
Suicide is never painless, and the tragedy has left Matthew’s parents, Corrine and Danny Errico, his two siblings, Amanda, 15, and Jeremy, 11, relatives and friends devastated.
“No one felt that he was capable of taking his life,” Danny Errico said Thursday at the family’s home in north Scottsdale’s Grayhawk neighborhood. “If we would have thought he was headed for that, we would’ve locked him away until we could’ve gotten him help or until it passed.”
After Errico read his son’s two-page suicide note on Thursday, he said it all pointed to physical problems caused by a weight-lifting injury Matthew suffered in January 2005.
Matthew performed an inclined bench press at a local gym without a “spotter.” The injury that nearly left Matthew debilitated a day later, led to constant pain in his back and later started his addiction to opiate medication he took for the pain.
He was placed in a rehabilitation counseling program at Chandler Valley Hope in August, his father said.
Errico believed the medication Matthew took that also included steroidal injections caused him to sink into depression that clouded his judgment and caused him to believe the pain was not going to subside.
In his suicide note, Matthew said he would pay to be paralyzed if the pain in his back could be reduced by half.
In the note, he also told his family he loved them and that he blamed no one for his situation.
“His pain was very real,” Errico said. “He couldn’t sit still in a chair for very long. He had to sleep with his legs elevated to alleviate his pain.”
'HE LOVED HIS FAMILY’
Matthew was described by his father as a “strong kid who could throw a football a mile,” who once loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a child and enjoyed playing basketball.
He played for four years on the lacrosse team at Pinnacle High School, where he graduated in 2005.
He formerly worked as a waiter at On the Border Mexican Grill and Cantina at Desert Ridge Marketplace and took business classes at Scottsdale Community College. He stopped doing both when the pain worsened about a year ago, his father said.
“He was a good kid,” Errico said. “He loved his family.”
No longer will Matthew and his brother, Jeremy, play video games together or will Jeremy look into the stands to see Matthew religiously watching his Boys’ Club basketball games.
“He always came to me when I needed help doing something,” Jeremy said. “He came to all of my games.”
Nor will his sister, Amanda, hear him walk down the hallway singing made-up songs with her or Jeremy’s names in them or hear him jokingly tell her boyfriends, “Not too close,” when she had them over to the house.
“He was my protector,” Amanda said. “He had a warm smile and cared more about others than himself.”
Matthew’s death comes in the midst of National Depression Month, an awareness month for people who are depressed and may need to reach out to someone.
Scottsdale averages one suicide per week, according to information released by Scottsdale police last year.
For the first time about a month ago, it appeared as though the doctors at the Mayo Clinic Scottsdale began to see the source of Matthew’s pain — slight tears in some disks in his back and an inflamed sciatic nerve, his father said.
“We were referred to Barrow Neurological Center in Phoenix, but no one wanted to open him up and operate because doctors said there was nothing they could do since there had never been any real diagnosis of anything wrong,” Errico said.
'ALWAYS IN OUR HEARTS’
At 10 a.m. today, the Errico family will be attending Matthew’s funeral at Scottsdale First Assembly Dream Center.
Several of Matthew’s friends have left condolences on his MySpace Web site, including one from his sister that said in part:
“Don’t feel any anger towards him. Just miss him and love him, and know he’s happy and free of pain. In remembering Matt, remember everything he’s done for you, and in what ways he’s helped you. I hope everyone got to see past all the hard times into his real personality. The world is lucky to have had him in it.”
“We’re all going to miss him very much,” Danny Errico said. “He’ll always be in our hearts.”