Overdose Awareness Day is Aug. 31

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Denise Ryder, of Webster City, lost her son Dalton to an accidental opioid overdose in 2016. Now, she shares his story to try to spread overdose awareness and prevention.

Denise Ryder should have been celebrating her son’s 27th birthday earlier this week. Instead, she mourns yet another age he’ll never reach, and prays that other parents won’t have to bury their children before their time.

Ryder, of Webster City, will be one of the speakers at the Overdose Awareness Day event hosted by Community and Family Resources from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 31 on the City Square. The event is free, open to the public and aims to educate about the dangers of the opioid epidemic.

“If you think this doesn’t affect you or isn’t going to affect your all-American family, your ‘good kid,’ you’re dead wrong,” Ryder said. “This opioid epidemic doesn’t discriminate in any way. It doesn’t matter if you’re from an affluent family or a poor family — it just doesn’t discriminate.”

Ryder’s son, Dalton, died on March 5, 2016, of an accidental opioid overdose. He was just 19 years old.

“That’s earth-shattering for a parent,” Ryder said during last year’s Overdose Awareness Day.

As a teenager, Dalton raced sprint cars and during one race, was in a crash and fractured his back. At the time, a doctor prescribed hydrocodone, a common opioid painkiller. Ryder knew opioids were risky, so she didn’t allow her son to have free access to them — she managed his dosages.

Then, in 2016, he was living in Arizona and still plagued by pain from his back injury. He had run out of his prescription, so he reached out to someone he knew to buy a pill from to ease the pain. He even looked for a photo of a hydrocodone pill online so he could verify that’s what he was about to take, but instead he had been sold a counterfeit pill with a lethal dose of fentanyl, an extremely potent synthetic opioid, mixed into it.

Countless victims of opioid overdoses have similar stories, Ryder said — it’s not just recreational drug users or consumers of counterfeit pills who are at risk.

“Let’s say your grandmother has surgery and they give her something for pain and it’s opioids,” she said. “She takes one and a few hours later, she’s still hurting and she forgot that she took that pill, so she takes another one, and that becomes a lethal dose for her.”

That’s why Ryder dedicates much of her time to spread awareness and education about overdose risks and prevention. At first, she said, she was embarrassed about how her son died.

“I didn’t want anybody to know that that’s how he died, and I didn’t want that to be his legacy, because he was so much more than that one pill that he took,” she said.

Instead, she shares his story to honor him and try to prevent more stories like his.

“No family should face this,” Ryder said. “If we can save one person by talking about it, than it’s worth it to me.”

A mother of another overdose victim will also be sharing her story at next Thursday’s event. CFR will be sharing information about outpatient treatment and options for opioid abuse and there will be art activities for kids.

Earlier in the day, CFR will host a brown bag opioid/Narcan training lunch at the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way, 24 N. Ninth St., from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Participants in the training will receive a certificate for free Narcan, also known as Naloxone, a lifesaving medication that helps reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. To register, visit surveymonkey.com/r/NRMLG2T.

“I think as a community as a whole, we need to open our eyes and be a lot less judgmental and end the stigma and silence about overdose,” Ryder said. “We need to help people.”


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