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Mother mourns teenage son lost to drug overdose

Though he died five years ago, the pain is just as fresh as if it had happened yesterday
Dominik was struck down by a drug overdose when he was 19, and his mother feels his death may have been prevented with better access to services. (submitted photo)

It’s been said that time heals all wounds, but that’s not true for one Hope woman.

It’s been nearly five years since Rhonda lost her son, Dominik, to a drug overdose, and it hurts as much today as it ever did.

“My son passed away Aug. 18 of 2017,” she said. “He’d just turned 19.”

Rhonda’s last name is omitted from this story because of the sensitivity of the subject matter, but she wants people to know how quickly a young life can unravel.

Dominik, she said, was an active and healthy child in his early teens. He captained his hockey team and had lots of interests. The first time she thought something might be wrong was when he started losing interest in those interests.

“He was about 14-15, and he was ‘off,’” Rhonda said. “The things that he loved, he no longer wanted to do. He dropped out of hockey and didn’t want to go to school. He was up all night and struggled to get out of bed in the morning.”

Dominik took his first steps down the wrong path as a dabbler. He had a mental health concern, and medication didn’t always help with his borderline personality disorder.

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“He did have psychosis at times and he reached out looking for something to shut off the voices,” Rhonda said.

On the day he died in Agassiz, Rhonda says he was looking for one thing and got another.

“The coroner said it was an accidental overdose of fentanyl that was way more than anybody could handle,” she explained. “He was looking for a hallucinogen, and he got fentanyl.”

Dominik’s family tried very hard to help him, but there were hurdles.

The resources he needed were often wait-listed, and living where they did, in the large-area-small-population eastern Fraser Valley, it was difficult.

“When you need those resources, you need them right now,” she said. “I had to reach out on my own because nothing was easily accessible. I ended up getting connected with Chilliwack Youth Mental Health and I went there for support groups. I could never get Dominik to go, but I went so I could better understand the situation.

“I don’t know that I could have done anything more. I feel like I tried every avenue I could and unfortunately it wasn’t in my hands.”

Since Dominik’s death, Rhonda has joined Moms Stop the Harm, a network of Canadian families affected by substance-use related harms and deaths. She is now an advocate for change, trying to get the resources she didn’t have that might have saved Dominik’s life.

“Treatment that you can get into right now, more open-access clinics,” she said. “Maybe legalizing some of these drugs and having control over them. If that’s what it takes to keep somebody alive, then why not?”

The overdose numbers released this week are discouraging to Rhonda.

“Just with the group of kids I know from Dominik’s hockey and school, there’s a few of them who overdosed, way too many for a small community,” she said. “When you see the numbers from 2017 to now, it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.”


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Eric Welsh

About the Author: Eric Welsh

I joined the Chilliwack Progress in 2007, originally hired as a sports reporter.
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