AMHERST, N.S. – Opioids continue to kill, and Wendy Golden wants it to stop.
“There’s so much stigma that goes with opiate use that when something terrible happens people are scared to talk about it.”
Golden shined a light on the dangers of opioid use during International Overdose Awareness Day at Victoria Square in Amherst on Aug. 31.
Her youngest son Kody Cook died June 24, 2014, from an accidental opiate overdose in Amherst. He was 20-years-old.
His death followed the death of her oldest son, Cory Cook. He died from smoke inhalation after his Amherst apartment caught fire on Aug. 9, 2009. He was 21-years-old.
“I’m a mother of four, I have one girl and three boys. My children were raised in a home with no drinking or drug use. I decided as a parent I didn’t want it to be normal for my kids to open the fridge and see alcohol,” Golden said. “My family, and the children’s fathers family, had experienced the hardships of alcoholism and I didn’t want that life for my children.”
She ran a tight ship.
“My rules were; home first after school, homework completed, chores done, and then it was time for play,” Golden said. “And when they were out I needed to know where they were going, who they were going with, an address, a phone number, and what time they would be would be back.”
She said they were rebellious teenagers.
“I made mistakes, I wasn’t a perfect parent by any means, and I was a lot over-protective.”
Her family responded to Cory’s death in different ways.
“As a mother, I was lost and felt anguish unlike anything I’d ever experienced,” Golden said. “His siblings were devastated. Each one grieved differently. There was anger, depression, sadness and disbelief.”
After Cory’s death Kody and her other son, Kyle, began drinking alcohol, and they also smoked marijuana.
“I talked to the children about seeing a counsellor, even made appointments, but they refused to attend.”
The drinking subsided, but the marijuana use did not.
The brothers eventually dropped out of school and worked at a fish plant in Grand Barrachois, N.B.
“They were still at home with me and I was content with that. Every day I saw them both growing, becoming young men and even beginning to smile again.”
On June 23, 2014, she arrived home from work at 11:30 p.m.
“I walked into the kitchen, I sat my bag down, and saw my youngest son Kody asleep on the couch,” Golden said. “I walked over to wake him and realized he wasn’t breathing.”
She called 911. The dispatcher instructed her on how to do CPR.
“I can’t remember what the dispatcher said to me once I started compressions and rescue breathes. I just remember praying to God not to let my boy die.”
The paramedics arrived. When one took over, Golden looked into his eyes and pleaded ‘please don’t let my son die, I’ve already lost one son, I can’t lose another.’
She couldn’t watch the paramedics work on her son any longer and went outside.
She says she has no idea how long the paramedics worked on Kody. It could have been minutes, it could have been hours.
“The paramedic that took over from me came walking out the front door. As he walked towards me, everything around me disappeared. I could only focus on him,” Golden said. “He said, ‘We did everything we could, we gave him everything we had.’ I couldn’t hear the rest of what he said because I screamed at his face ‘No, don’t tell me that, it’s not fair.’”
She dropped to the ground.
“The next thing I remember, I was on the ground and my son Kyle was laying on top of me hugging me and crying and telling me, ‘Mom, it’s going to be OK. I promise I will never leave you.”
While the paramedics were working on Kody they asked if he took any drugs that day, and Golden said she didn’t know because she hadn’t seen him since 4 a.m. when he left for work.
“I yelled for Kyle and my stepson Tyler. They came downstairs and I asked if they knew if Kody had taken anything. Neither had any idea.”
Kyle started calling co-workers asking if they knew anything and quickly pinpointed what drugs Kody took and who he got them from.
“As it turned out Kody had taken clonazepam and methadone on that day of work.
He got if from a co-worker.”
An autopsy said Cook was a ‘naïve’ user.
“There was nothing in his system that showed he had used opiates before,” said Golden.
The co-worker, Neil Calder, sold $7 worth of drugs to Cook.
In July of 2016, in Moncton provincial court, Calder received a three-year sentence for manslaughter in the death of Cook, and a two-year sentence, concurrent to the three-year sentence, for trafficking methadone.
Talking about her son’s death was difficult but Golden says it needs to be done.
“This is the first public speech I’ve given. It was hard to go through that night again but it needs to be done,” Golden said. “Somebody has to start talking so the stigma goes away and other people can start talking.”
She hopes to give talks in schools in the future.
“I’m hoping that by sharing the story it will give people more to think about when it comes to drugs and what the consequences can be.”