Mock overdose shows opiate horrors

By David J. Coehrs -

During a presentation of Promedica Flower Hospital’s mock overdose event, which graphically simulates the occurrence, a female audience member got up from the second row and walked out.

But she didn’t leave out of disgust or a weak stomach, said Ross Horton, founder of the Toledo-based Families and Addicts Coming Together (FACT). “She was so moved by the entire presentation that she actually asked to be placed into rehabilitation,” he said.

Fulton County residents will have the opportunity to see the powerful demonstration at a special meeting of Strength in Numbers, a public support group for anyone affected by addiction. It will be held Thursday from 7-9 p.m. in the basement of St. Caspar Catholic Church, 1205 N. Shoop Ave., in Wauseon.

“We just want people to know what’s going on. There’s so many people that don’t think it’s a problem here,” said Strength co-founder Lori Knierim. “They just don’t know how bad it is. We just want people to know what to look for and to keep their eyes open.”

The support group, which usually attracts about 30 people to its regular meetings every second and fourth Thursday, jumped at the chance to bring the mock overdose presentation to the area. Created by Andrea Donohue, the ER director at Promedica Flower Hospital in Sylvania, it uses nurses from the the ER trauma team to enact four stages of heroin overdose. Each scenario depicts a progressively worse overdose, and little is left to the imagination. Parents are advised not to bring younger children.

The final, and probably most graphic scenario, “is the most sensitive to addicts and families that have gone through a loss,” Donohue said. “We don’t leave a dry eye in the house. It’s very moving.”

After each scenario, a member of FACT who has experienced that phase of drug overdose, either as the victim or as a family member, will relate their story. One will be Horton himself, who lost two children to drug overdoses.

FACT has teamed with Promedica Flower Hospital to bring the mock overdose presentation to the community. “If I can help an addict get into treatment, if I can help a parent with active use…that’s why I do what I do,” Horton said.

Donohue said the presentation is not meant to denigrate people with drug addictions. “It’s just showing the real perspective of this addiction of heroin. We have family members that come up and say, ‘Thank you, this brings light to everything.’”

The presentation in Wauseon will be the third by the ER trauma team this year; it was performed six times in 2017. The team and FACT hope to bring it to other addiction support groups, help organizations, and high schools. Originally commissioned by the Lucas County Health Department, the presentation has been shown elsewhere, including in Northwood, to community members, police and fire personnel, and local politicians.

Additionally, Donohue’s team will present, “Behind the Scenes: What Really Goes On,” a free opiate awareness workshop on June 18 at St. Catherine’s Catholic Church in Toledo.

Knierim, who founded Strength in Numbers with Linda Wurns in March of 2016, lost her 20-year-old son Matthew to a heroin overdose in 2014. He had previously undergone three months of rehabilitation at the Fresh Start program in Napoleon, but she knew he had relapsed.

“He was just not himself. They change so much. He was not the same person,” she said. “A month after he was out I knew he started up again, because the old Matthew was back.”

Her son had confessed his drug use nine months prior to his death, telling Knierim he also snorted heroin while a senior at Wauseon High School. He fed his habit by selling most of his belongings.

“You could have knocked me over with a feather,” she said. “I had no clue. He said, ‘Mom, you can get it anywhere, and it’s cheap.’”

Prior to his heroin use, Matthew had smoked marijuana, drank alcohol, and swiped his parents’ prescription pills.

Knierim said her experience with her son has made it that much more vital to bring the mock overdose presentation to Fulton County.

“It’s very important to me. Anyone that we can help, that we can get the information to, it’s just necessary,” she said.

For more information on Strength in Numbers, call Knierim at 419-335-6793 or Linda Wurns at 419-266-4151.

By David J. Coehrs

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.