A Christmas story from the reporter’s notebook:

With no hoopla or public notice other than a short obituary, a young man died up in Las Vegas, Nevada earlier this month.

Out of respect for the family, I won’t use his real name. For our note this morning we’ll simply call him John.

John was like many young people today. In his twenties, his parents had divorced. His mom had remarried in a different state. Dad? Well, they reportedly had their differences, too.

When you’re part of that post-teen, family-adrift generation, it’s easy to hook-up with the wrong kind of people. John did. Las Vegas is full of wrong kind of people.

At first, it was recreational drugs; a hit of marijuana here, a snort of something stronger there. So began his descent into an addict’s hell. Before family knew, John had been introduced to heroin. It seemed to shut down the pain, but only for a while.   Then he’d need more…and more.

Las Vegas is a “party town” and while that’s great in terms of revenue from the drinking, gambling, hotels, and entertainment, Las Vegas also features one of the most robust drug sub-cultures in the world.

Few from out-of-town realize it, but if you know the right people, there’s even a certain phone number you can call to get Heroin-To-Go delivered to any address you want, including the big hotels on the Strip.

So pernicious are the LV drug problems that it drew the attention of National Geographic in 2012 – right around the time when John was getting hooked-up – aired an episode as part of the series DRUGS, Inc.“ series titled “High Stakes Vegas.

As the financial downturn of a few years back rolled through the social strata of “Sin City” drugs became more widely available. People who’d lost their jobs still needed to eat. The specter of losing homes and cars drove families to desperation. Especially in among the newly-arrived; people with ties to Mexico and gangs further south.

As a result, Mexican black tar heroin became popular, made easier than ever-before to obtain because the drug outbreak was fueled by the Obama administration’s neglect – failing to implement and enforcing laws on the books about Border Security. They wink-winked Sanctuary Cities and turned criminals loose on American streets. Their political agenda outweighed social justice. 

Las Vegas was not alone with their drug epidemic: Black tar heroin has been spreading disease-like across much of the U.S. The “mules” who bring it over the border are managed by coyotes who demand payment for transport to the U.S. The highest profits for the border-runners are in the most dangerous of drugs.

John, a few years back, found himself hooked. Black tar heroin began to destroy his life, slowly but with deadly certainty.

A few friends and family recognized his plight, and he got into rehab. But falling off was easy. Especially since in many rehab programs a shot of methadone is more expensive than a nickel-bag of smack on the street.

Oh, sure, government agencies talk a great game of “caring” and “rehabilitating” but behavioral economics will kick your ass every time. John was in rehab, came out, faced the unchanging reality of an addict’s world, and was promptly sucked back into frequent using again.

Unknown to him, during this time something invisible was happening to John’s body. Something he wasn’t aware of: His body was developing a hyper-sensitivity reflex to the black tar horse.

As the drug peddlers were upping their game, calling their impure drug fancy names like “White Lady” and “Black Pearl” – all terms to make injectable death seem remote – John’s body was becoming more and more attuned.

By the time of his last release from rehab, in late November, John’s body was primed.

His family believes the rehab facility warned him of the extreme risks of starting to use again. Maybe they had, but did John hear?

Much has been written about heroin relapse sensitivity. It can be found on sites like The Fix as well as in the www.pubmed.gov medical research database. [heroin relapse sensitivity]

Unfortunately, that didn’t sink in with John. In early December he took his final dose of black tar heroin. It was estimated at previous use levels and because of sensitivity it landed him in a coma.

10-days later, the family was faced with a terrible decision: John’s brain function had dropped from 3% at time of heroic medical intervention measures to virtually nothing.

The Operating Team called ‘time’ at 0400 AM on 12/7/2016.

Although a soul-wrenching decision to make, John was unplugged a couple of weeks ago. We hope is passing to a better life was less painful than the life of addiction of this side of the Big Curtain.

About here, you may be asking yourself “What does this possibly have to do with Christmas?

Right – I was just getting to that.

John’s final Christmas gift list deserves to be shared.

  • A 16-year old girl received both of John’s lungs.
  • An 60-year old female received one of his kidneys.
  • A 28-year old female received the other kidney.
  • A 59-year old male received John’s liver.
  • And a 56-year old male received John’s heart.

John had others on his list, including two awaiting corneal transplants. But because he was an intravenous user, those presents were not able to be delivered.

In this, our last column before Christmas, we would like to extend our sincere sympathy and love to John’s survivors and also extend our thanks and acknowledge that there are no greater gifts than these.

Write when you get rich, although you already are in ways seldom measured.