When I met Nick in March he immediately told me about his nephew Nicholas who was in rehab for a heroin addiction. I was supportive. Nicholas got out of rehab and I embraced him with open arms. In fact, Nicholas and I really clicked. We would message each other through Facebook, text and talk on the phone from time to time. He came over our house for dinner a month or so ago. We grilled out, chatted and just had a good time. We talked about his addiction a lot. He often thanked me for not judging him and being so kind. I truly thought of him as my nephew. He struggled daily but was fighting so hard. His fight ended Monday, August 12 at 2 a.m. though.
I had just gone to bed and Nick was watching TV when the phone rang about 12:30 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 8. Nick came running in the room. I knew immediately by his face that something was seriously wrong and my gut told me it was Nicholas. We both rushed around getting clothes on. I was shaking. He was crying. We ran to the car and rushed to the hospital, which is luckily just a few minutes away.
Family was rushing in – aunts, uncles, grandparents, church members. Tears were flowing. I held Nicholas’ hand as the nurse told me that his heart had stopped and he had to be revived. He was not conscience and was breathing through a tube. I asked what the chances were that he’d ever wake up. I knew the real answer by the look on her face but she told me it was hard to tell at this point. I continued to hold his hand and prayed for a miracle. The family took over the ER that night. We all supported each other, made phone calls and prayed.
After several hours, Nicholas was moved to ICU. They told us they had to bring his temperature down to try to save him. That took about 24 hours. Then they had to start warming him up again so a CAT scan could be done. That scan would tell us whether he was brain-dead and what his survival rate might be. Saturday afternoon is when we were told there was no chance of survival. He could not breathe on his own and there was no brain activity. Although we were trying to prepare for this since early Friday morning, it was heart wrenching to hear. I truly can’t remember a time in my life feeling that much pain. The only thing that comes close is when Joey was diagnosed with LCH.
I have lost several family members but never to something this tragic and never anyone this young. Nicholas was only 30 (read his obit). Not long after receiving the diagnosis, we were told that he was an organ donor and that things would be prolonged because we had to find matches and fly surgeons in. This honestly caused mixed emotions. We were all thrilled Nicholas’ heart and other organs would live on. But it did mean spending more time in the hospital and postponing closure. We were told that it would probably happen around mid-afternoon on Sunday but that time-frame kept getting postponed due to finding the right match and surgeons getting there. Around 7 p.m. they told us it would happen at 2 a.m. We decided to go have dinner as a family and return to the hospital around 12:30 a.m.
Just over 72 hours after that initial phone call each one of us took a turn saying goodbye. Stories about Nicholas were told, favorite things about him – like his smile – were reflected on and many tears were shed along with the question “why?” being repeated over and over. I held his hand, kissed his forehead and repeatedly said the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. I told him I loved him, that it was okay to leave us now, that his struggle was over and that I would miss him terribly.
Yes, part of me wanted to scream “why the hell did you do this to us?!? Why would you do this to your parents? You were doing so good. Why didn’t you call me?” But there was no sense in that. I’m betting a heroin addict doesn’t know why. He didn’t want to hurt us. Nicholas loved everyone. He loved life. His smile showed it.
Nicholas’ death was senseless. In a weak moment two years ago, after a horrible tragedy in his life, he said yes to heroin. One time and boom you are addicted. He struggled with it ever since. He had been clean but one night let heroin win his fight. We believe he did his “normal” dose, which his body couldn’t handle because he had not been using regularly. He overdosed. His poor father heard a crash in the bathroom and found his son laying in his own vomit and was not conscience. His parents had to watch as EMTs loaded him in the ambulance doing CPR and trying to save his life. His parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and friends spent 72 hours in the hospital hoping and praying for a miracle. A miracle that we never got.
When I finally got home and saw my own children I hugged them both and sobbed. I begged them to promise me they would never try heroin. I told them all about Nicholas and the last 72 hours. They both cried with Nick and me. They both promised they would never touch it. I will remind them of that promise at least weekly for the rest of their lives.
Heroin can happen to anyone and any family. It’s super easy to come by. Just swing by the parking lot of a busy grocery store (even in an upscale neighborhood) or walk a few blocks in an inner city (or in the suburbs) and you will find it. It’s super cheap too. Apparently you can get really high for $5. You can die for $10. It’s not something that only happens in bad neighborhoods. It happens every where – even upscale towns. Nicholas lived in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. He comes from a good family with good values. He was very loved and cared for. (See: Impact of Heroin Addiction on Family and Town and Northern Kentucky is Ground Zero for Heroin)
Dealers will give heroin to kids, adults, boys, girls, poor people, rich people, white people, black people and anyone who will take it. Heroin does not descriminate. They will even give it to you for FREE the first time because they want you to get hooked and then pay. And believe me, you will pay. You will pay with your life. Luckily Nicholas has a huge supportive family who loves each other very much. We are not going to let Nicholas’ death be senseless. We are going to tell his story over and over. We are going to find a way to educate today’s youth and families. We are going to fight heroin and find a way to win! We hope you will join our fight.
As of 2009, 100,000 people were dying from heroin use each year. It has been estimated that 6,500 die each year from heroin overdose. You can learn more about heroin here. Our family will have a website up soon called www.NKYHatesHeroin.Com.
Do you know someone hooked on heroin? Have you lost someone to this horrible drug? Are you ready to join the fight against heroin? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment here.