Coping: Merry Christmas – from the Dead

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 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.

19 thoughts on “Coping: Merry Christmas – from the Dead”

    • I agree with this. There are several levels of “illegal drugs”, and they’re not always used to make pain go away. Schedule I drugs are not even easily available for research, and than needs to change. All Schedule I should be schedule II, so that doctors and patients can make their own choices.

      As shown here, some people have a life path that won’t change easily, regardless of the efforts of their family and friends. We can all hope and pray for the best results in the larger scheme of things. My condolences to family and friends.

      • Have you read about the DEA trying to make kratom(mitragyna speciosa) a schedule 1 substance? It has major potential to help with heroin/opiate addiction/recovery, but if the DEA gets their way, people won’t even be able to research it.

      • DEA part and parcel with FDA don’t seem to realize that in the greater scheme of things, a bunch of upright apes trying to find fault with a simple PLANT substance is the height of absurdity, except they’ve made a money game and sparklies deal out of it.
        If weed were easy access (Wa and CO models) the glow would be off and the path to the next level of dealer crap would die on the vine because who nerds a dealer when you have a garden>

      • DEA partr and parcel with FDA don’t seem to realize that in the greater scheme of things, a bunch of upright apes trying to find fault with a simple PLANT substance is the height of absurdity, except they’ve made a money game and sparklies deal out of it.
        If weed were easy access (Wa and CO models) the glow would be off and the path to the next level of dealer crap would die on the vine because who nerds a dealer when you have a garden>

      • you sir are a horses patoot.making dope legal just lets those who use or want to experiment be able to do so with too much ease, and the death rate would skyrocket. whether its free or costs thousands of dollars a hit, peoples lives would be ruined. and as such, addicts would become sensitive to it after detoxing and would still pass on or in our sons case ruin his body and die from a bad heart after getting clean. by the way methadone is a drink not shot or at least in our sons case

      • @Don Nolo: What you describe has not been the experience in countries such as Portugal and Spain where they are defacto legal. There’s a very big difference between addictive drugs and non-addictive drugs, and with either, a person is either an addict or a non-addict. The opiates are very addictive to some people, but as I’ve seen locally, prohibition leads to drug wars that ruin the lives of those who are not even involved. People need to handle their own lives, with the aid of friends, families, and God. The government can’t prescribe one solution to fit all – it doesn’t work. I’m truly sorry about your own situation, but some things are beyond human control. Trust, let go, and do the best you can without affecting others’ lives.

    • Often true, and certainly not without knowledge and intention. Some “drugs” and “supplements” cross over and it’s only the individual that can determine the risk/reward ratio.

      I do think even heroin has a place in healing, and end of life situations. Without consciousness though, even distilled water can kill. We definitely need to take the profit and the illegal aspect out of these things so that we can focus on the real problems. Those with addictive personalities will outgrow them if we can keep them alive long enough to do so, but that’s not always possible. There are ways to do that, but they’re not yet available to conventional medicine.

      The illegal cartels have caused incredible damage to our nation, and recently very close to my location. We need to stop this insanity. For those who doubt me, read up on the Opium Wars.

  1. In Ontario, Canada, On Dec 14th just passed, I, and our family lost my 51 yr old baby sister to blood clots leading to multiple strokes, and cardiac arrest. She was on a transplant list, but due to the strokes could not be given a heart. She left behind a 7 yr old son and a devastated husband and extended family. This all transpired over a 3 week period. If any lessons are to be learned from this, and your story George, is to sign your organ donors card, and inform your family of your wishes!
    you can, in a way, achieve immortality by your donation, and live on, in the lives of others…
    Mark Z.

    • Attendum;
      Having met and talked extensively with the cardiac transplant team at Toronto General hospital over the past month, I can say I/we have never met a more professional, caring set of Medical personnel. The cardiac surgeon who originally saved my sister from certain death [with an external heart pump], had already done over 200 heart transplants, I never knew they were that commonplace!
      No offense, but the stories you hear I trust, are just Urban Legend. If you are truly “brain dead”, then have the wish in place to be a donor to help others.
      Merry christmas all, and hug your loved ones often, because you never know…

  2. You know, I’ve been an organ donor ( on my license) in the past. The stories I’ve heard, about harvesting before the donor is deceased really freaked me. I am no longer an organ donor. If true I can’t think of anything more gruesome to do to a person. Merry Christmas indeed… abra

    • I also removed myself, same reason. Not only that, I had TWO patients come back to life: one of them after my pre-donor transplant workup had been completed, and the other is..another story.
      That is, I prefer to have my next of kin (who have also removed themselves for the same reasons) make that decision.

  3. and as a Christmas and Hanukkah gift from obama…UN resolution passed ,to reject Israel settlements and OUR borders are still wide open for drugs and others….imho

  4. As I finished reading this, my first thought was: “Quite a business model.”
    I guess society needs it’s ground meat and some people are willing to provide, themselves or their children.
    Merry Christmas anyhow everyone.

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