Parkview ER doctor Tyler Johnson’s first day on the job brought a rude awakening, especially for a “naïve kid from Grabill.”
“I looked down on the cot, and it happened to be one of my friends from high school,” said Johnson, who has been on the job for 10 years. His friend had overdosed on drugs.
“From that day on, I’ve tried to work with community resources and tried to work outside the emergency department as this thing grows, and unfortunately we’re seeing this grow and grow and grow.”
Johnson was one of the speakers Saturday at Overdose Awareness Day 2021 held on the Allen County Courthouse Green. The event was organized by Andrea Ullyot Schroeder, who lost a daughter to a drug overdose; Theresa Garcia Juillerat of JAVA, or Justice, Accountability and Victim Advocacy; and Nate Moellering and Tommy Streeter of Bare Knuckle Recovery.
“The whole month of August is dedicated to the cause of opioid awareness,” Garcia Juillerat said.
Jennifer Hope, founder of local group Mom of an Addict, distributed free Narcan to anyone who needed it. She said Narcan usually costs about $80 a dose and thought she’d handed out 23 doses Saturday, mostly to parents and people in recovery, she said.
Naloxone, the ingredient in Narcan delivered nasally to reverse an overdose, is often used to “fix” a Percocet or heroin overdose, Johnson told a crowd of about 100, “but when you’re talking about fentanyl and the levels and amounts that are there – like eight, nine, 10 times a lethal dose – it can be hard to even treat that.” Fentanyl is considered 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more lethal than morphine, he added.
Speakers stood behind rows of posters bearing photos, names and the birth and death dates of overdose victims. One of those victims was Dawson Lothamer, who died in September 2019 at age 14.
His mother, Elizabeth Lothamer, said her husband went to check on their son at 4:45 a.m. and found him unresponsive. She said earlier that night she had “hugged him and kissed him and said goodnight, and that’s the last time I heard his voice.”
Brother Bryce Lothamer was 16 and serving a short sentence for drug charges at the Allen County Juvenile Center when Dawson Lothamer died.
“They let me go to his showing for about 30 minutes,” Bryce Lothamer said, adding that he feels if he’d been there, he could have saved his brother.
For more information on opioid awareness, go to Bare Knuckle Recovery or Opioid Awareness Day 2021 on Facebook.