The Beginning of the EndThirteen years ago today, Casey overdosed for the third and final time. It would be the beginning of the end, the first of ten days that he lay in a coma before we had to let him go. This time would be different from the others, he wouldn't walk out this time. There would be no more chances for recovery.
It has only been in the last couple of years, while listening to a presentation for nurses and other health professionals, that I heard of just how many Kentuckians overdosed that same year and at the same hospital as Casey. The presentation included a slide of data from University Hospital of patients with Kentucky zip codes presenting with an overdose from 2000 to 2011 or 12. While the audience was focusing on the top of the chart, my eyes zeroed in on 2002, the year that Casey was one of those statistics. It was surprising to most that the number of overdoses in 2002 exceeded the number at the top by approximately 1,000.
I thought that one of those more than 5,000 overdoses in 2002 was enough, enough because that one was my son, Casey.
Since Casey's death, my thoughts have often been a series of "what ifs". Today, I can't help but think "what if", wondering whether or not we would be living the nightmare of this heroin epidemic, if people had paid attention 13 years ago! We'll never know. Tragically, most were in denial, believing that heroin would never touch their loved ones and fearing that if it were acknowledged that it would. Even without the acknowledgement and in fact, because of it, more families are in the club that no one wants to join.
Those who have the ability to be optimistic in the face of such devastation would say that we are at the 'tipping point'. On my best days, I would agree. On days when one call after another is one of desperation and hopelessness, I have my doubts.
What I do know is that while resources are still limited and a standard of care is in the early stages of development, the disease of addiction in general and heroin in particular demands attention.
It's also blatantly obvious that we are not where we were and closer to where we hope to be. Hopefully, progress will continue so that 13 years from now we will not be looking back wistfully at what might have been but rather celebrating what is.
In the meantime, perhaps, just perhaps, through our collective efforts, this will again be the beginning of the end, the end of the tragic results of this devastating epidemic and the beginning of affordable, accessible and available evidence-based care for the treatment and recovery of our loved ones.
Until next time. . .