MEMPHIS, Tenn. — You may have heard about the dangers of the drug fentanyl, but imagine being accidentally exposed to it. That’s what one Memphis woman says happened to her, and she’s on a mission to educate others.

Photos of Virginia Terrell show a 41-year-old college graduate, a mother, and a manager of a busy Beale Street restaurant. What the photos don’t capture is a woman trying to survive the possible repercussions of an accidental exposure to fentanyl that could mean the loss of a job and time in jail.

She’s not sure how she was exposed.

“I work on Beale Street. I’m the manager. I’m one of those people who go into the bathroom regularly to plunge the toilets, clean the sink, and things of that nature. So, there’s no telling,” Terrell said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. 

What complicates Terrell’s story is that she’s also in Drug Intervention Court. She said at one time her drug of choice was crystal meth.

“I’m in recovery. My drug of choice was not Fentanyl, but I’m in Intervention Court due to my past history. Through the daily course of my actions, I come in contact with a substance that showed up on my drug test as Fentanyl,” Terrell said.

She said she’s been clean for three years but finding out about the Fentanyl exposure has turned her life upside down and she’s not just concerned about her health.

“I felt so violated this could be in my system after I had worked so hard to make sure that nothing of that such is in there,” Terrell said. “I risk incarceration because of my past and I feel like I’m in a very horrible cycle even when I’m getting my head above water.”

Terrell also worries about her job.

“I love my employer, but it does put a small dark spot on my heart to know that to maintain the criteria to be met by drug court, I may have to leave my place of employment,” she said.

No matter her outcome, she wants others to know about the dangers of Fentanyl exposure.

“Yes, I am on a mission. I’m on a mission to help save families, lives, and community,” she said.

Virginia Terrell said she hopes to continue to educate the public about the perils of accidental Fentanyl exposure that many people have no idea exists.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control website for more information about fentanyl exposure.