A lesson about establishing closeness and a subsequent story

When my oldest nephew was two, a couple of years before J was born, my wife and I went on vacation with her parents, her sister and husband, and my nephew. We rented a house at the beach in North Carolina for a week. I was not yet a parent but was anxious to become one and I had always liked kids, so I spent a lot of time that week playing with my very cute nephew.

I think my sister in law was pregnant with her second son on that vacation. Once I had two nephews, I saw the boys on the same visits for the same amount of time, but I was distinctly closer to the older one, mainly because he reacted differently to me. He was happier to see me, knowing better who I was. Two is, I think, too young to remember back to once you're older, but the established bond was remembered from then and continued to have an impact. My nephew didn't remember getting close to me, he just remembered that he was close to me.

He got older and learned to play bass, which he played mainly in church bands. Music was a common bond and sometimes I'd e-mail him about older music to check out. I didn't see him much because the closest I ever lived to him was three hours away.

Six or seven years ago, my sister in law's family was awakened in the middle of the night by a fully armed SWAT team crashing through their door and arresting my nephew on drug charges. He was accused of selling drugs. There was never any evidence that he was armed; that series of SWAT raids was essentially a local political stunt. But it was worse than that. The raid was just before Christmas, timed deliberately so families couldn't get their kids out of jail to spend Christmas at home. My nephew was out just after Christmas. My brother and sister in law had no idea their son had any involvement - they went from zero to SWAT team in the house essentially instantly.

Part of his drug scene was pills. I don't remember if he had a medical reason for getting on them. What I do know is that they led to heroin.

I'd seen my nephew while he was either on it or had been on it relatively recently. I don't think my sister-in-law was telling the family what was going on yet, but it was obvious that something was going on. Have you ever spoken to someone on heroin? My nephew was skinny, kind of lethargic, incurious - lacking a spark, and spoke with a simpler vocabulary. In short, my bright nephew wasn't bright. His parents went through all sorts of efforts to get him clean, going through all their money and dealing with an addict in the house.

At one point he got himself shot in the leg. He claimed it was part of a carjacking, but there was no way to be sure under the circumstances. If that was true, it was unlikely to have been the whole story

My nephew cleaned up and his brightness returned. He was surprised when I told him how different a person he was when he was on it. We heard stories about how friends of his had died and it shook him.

On Thursday I think it was, maybe Wednesday, my wife got a phone call. My brother in law found my nephew in a coma and he was on a ventilator in the hospital with a bad prognosis. My wife, daughter and I started to prepare ourselves to drive to Ohio for a funeral.

Did I mention that my sister-in-law has been fighting cancer? She got good news about that in the middle of all this.

Yesterday (Friday) we got more news from Ohio. My nephew has been pronounced dead because he has no brain activity. They put some sort of dye into his blood and discovered that none of it was reaching his brain. However, on his driver's license he checked Organ Donor, so his body is being kept alive pending anyone needing an organ.

And we got another piece of news: his toxicology report came back negative. His parents said he'd been clean for a year and it turns out that his coma was not induced by an overdose. A young man addicted to heroin is found comatose - what would you assume? Addicts aren't exactly truthful when they lapse. That was everyone's first thought, including his parents'. But no paraphernalia was found in the house and his tox screen says he was drug free.

That was, oddly, good news.

Of course, we now have no idea what killed my nephew. We're hoping to find out once they get to an autopsy, which will happen after organ donation assuming someone somewhere needs an organ and there's a match.

I know I'll be driving the family to Ohio soon for a funeral, though I don't know exactly when. I hope my wife and I can be of some help to her sister and our brother-in-law. After all, we have some experience in this area.

Update, 12:57 PM EST Sat.
They have taken his heart and kidneys. He saves three lives.
Mon.: Not heart, liver

Views: 453

Comment by Anna Herrington on March 11, 2017 at 1:54pm

Kosh, how desperately sad, especially after a year's grace of having their 'child' back to bright and clear... and (maybe) a silver lining that he was determined to be clean. 

Might be hard to tell whether it was heroin or the pills that was so hard on his body...

Almost every single friend made in Georgia, of my two older sons, ended up addicted to Oxycontin by the time they were eighteen. We'd moved away by then, but we were rather stunned to learn how rampant the Oxy habit was among teens back there - and how many moved on to heroin. Cheaper. 

... and more than one medical pro has told me over the years that heroin is less hard on the body than certain prescription pills are when abused - or than meth.

So sorry for your family's loss, the parents' loss.

My oldest niece, while still alive, has a far too similar story. Still expect a phone call any time... for years now.

The dread and despair for those lost due to drugs can be so intense for those who love them.

Best to you and yours ~

Comment by marilyn sands on March 11, 2017 at 4:23pm

The years of waiting for the other shoe to drop...parenting isn't easy.  I know you will be of help.

Comment by greenheron on March 11, 2017 at 4:36pm

I’m so sorry. What an awful thing. Ditto what Monkey said about clicking the like button.

Heroin use has exploded out of control among young people. While many of us ingested our share of drugs in our youth, drugs kids did back then aren’t the same drugs kids do now.

Two of my students were on heroin last semester (that I knew about anyway). One had been to six funerals in a year, one of them her boyfriend. He’d gotten straight, then when he relapsed, he took the same dose he always had, and because his tolerance was gone, he overdosed. Funerals had become a part of her life. She was surprised that I thought six in a year was a big deal. She was as seasoned as a forty year old.

Have a safe trip and hug lots of people when you get there.

Comment by Julie Johnson on March 11, 2017 at 5:43pm

Oh...koshersalaami, you write about this so well.  Not sure if that's a 'good' thing, or a 'bad' thing, but to able to write so clearly is a gift.  Around my neck of the woods, what has happened to so many people, and not just young people, it's people our age is that they've gotten addicted to what the doctors prescribed so cheaply and freely, just a few years ago.  Now, they can't get it what they've gotten used to, legally anymore, so they go to the streets. 

Once again, a very clear and thoughtful piece.  One thing that you mention, that I have noticed also, that surprises me about people who are under the influence, is why are they so surprised acting, when we can tell the difference?  

Comment by Phyllis on March 11, 2017 at 7:19pm

I'm sorry that your family is having troubled times, losing a loved one is never easy. I hope that knowing three lives were saved provides some solace.

Comment by Bernadine Spitzsnogel on March 11, 2017 at 7:37pm

I am so very sorry.

Comment by Ron Powell on March 11, 2017 at 8:40pm

You have my deepest sympathies.

Take care on the inevitable trip ....

Comment by Rosigami on March 11, 2017 at 8:59pm

My condolences to you and all your family. This is a real tragedy. I hope it brings some comfort that your nephew was able to donate his organs. 

Comment by Stephen Brassawe on March 12, 2017 at 1:07pm

It has been some time since I first read this. As always in the face of such I am at a loss for words. Travel safely.

Comment by koshersalaami on March 12, 2017 at 2:17pm

Thank you. We're in the midst of changing drivers on Pennsylvania


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