On April 19, Sherri Kent, of Calgary, shared a photo of herself lying with her son in his hospital bed in the hope it would save lives. It has been shared more than 102,000 times.
I arrived at the hospital in Kelowna, B.C., from Calgary on March 15, a Wednesday. Michael had overdosed on heroin, laced with fentanyl, the evening before. The EMS found him lying in a filthy bathroom, in a little corner store, where he'd met this guy who told him he had great stuff. His sister, Danielle, lost it and told her younger brother earlier to steer clear of the guy. Michael said he would, but when Danielle took a nap, the guy messaged Michael again, and he left to meet him. By the time Michael was found in the public restroom, he was in cardiac arrest. Michael was my baby. He was only 22. He would have turned 23 on June 2. (I have four kids, and they're all close to me).
Michael's sister had moved to Kelowna six weeks before he died. Michael joined her four weeks later to find work in construction. He got a call for a job after he passed.
The toxicology report hasn't come back yet, but doctors say they're sure it was a fentanyl overdose. When I arrived at the hospital the next day, doctors told me my son wasn't going to wake up. They held onto him for a couple of days for us. I had a lot of time to think, to cry, to ask why? Michael died March 21 and I decided to donate his organs because I know that is what he would have wanted. As a kid, Michael was always happy. He was a sweetheart. He gave awesome hugs.
I don't know who the recipients of his organs are, but I know they all survived the transplants. One person got a double lung transplant. Another, a life-saving liver transplant. Two people received his kidneys and someone with severe diabetes received his pancreas. It makes me feel so good. I know Michael would have been proud of me, too.
I never left the hospital. The worst part of this is I'm never going to see my son again. And I almost lost my daughter, who is 25, three weeks before Michael. She and a friend overdosed on cocaine laced with fentanyl. Within five minutes, her friend was unconscious in the front seat. Danielle was able to drive to the hospital, which thankfully, was not far. They got the help they needed, or they wouldn't be here today, either.
I can't tell you how lost I am. So mad. It's so scary out there. I've received a lot of criticism from people – I call them trolls – for saying my kid was not an addict. My friends have wanted to fight back, but I've told them not to waste their time. The reality is that kids are doing it, regardless of how many times you plead, cry and tell them not to. It's a mess. And it's getting worse. Thousands of people have shared my post on Facebook. I never expected it would be this big. I've seen the hurtful comments, but the vast majority are kind, from parents who want to thank me – and from addicts, who say they so desperately want to stop. They've thanked me for posting it because it made them realize they're not just hurting themselves. They don't want this to be their mother.
I was with my sister in the hospital. She took the photo. I wasn't sure whether to post it, and then decided I had to do something. Parents have to be aware; they can't be naive that their kids aren't doing it. There is so much pressure on kids to do drugs. I can only hope that the picture might save other kids, other families. I've heard from people in Egypt, Mexico, London – all over the world. Parents say it's waken them to the reality of kids and drugs.
My daughter is devastated by her brother's death. And she's used since, which breaks my heart. I think she knows she made a mistake. I'm close to her, and I think she's telling me the truth that she hasn't used since then. I've harped on her. I've cried and cried. I can't lose another child. I just can't. I didn't even know what fentanyl was until a year ago. It hurts me still to see the picture. It always will. But my son – and the countless other sons and daughters who have died because of this awful drug – are human beings. They have faces. Families who love them. They are not just numbers.
Sherri Kent's son, Michael Kent, has a one-year-old son, and wanted to be a boilermaker like his older brother.
As told to Gayle MacDonald