Pubdate: Sun, 26 Nov 2017
Source: Winnipeg Sun (CN MB)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Candice G. Ball
Page: 11

Let's Talk Drugs - Part 2 of a 5 part series


When the police came to Lois Fridfinnson's door and told her that her
son, Michael Johnson, died from a methadone overdose, she fell to the
floor. She thought that would be the worst day of her life.

Her 23-year-old son struggled with opioid addiction. Michael had been
waiting nearly three months to get into treatment. He had been given a
two-day supply of methadone and was supposed to enter treatment on May
3, 2010. He died on May 1.

Grief-stricken, Fridfinnson had to see her son one last time. She
called the Health Sciences Centre and insisted they let her see her
son as soon as possible.

"I had to do that to really know that what they said to me is real,"
she explained. "His hair was a little bit wavy. He must have been
sweating before he died, but he looked peaceful."

Michael was a talented musician who loved to write and perform songs.
His younger sister, Bricey, also possessed musical talent and she sang
his song, "Wake Up to a New Morning" at his funeral.

Fridfinnson thought saying goodbye to her son would be the hardest
thing she ever had to do. She never imagined she'd lose her daughter
to opioid addiction, but the familiar nightmare started playing out in
her life again.

With Bricey, her descent began with alcohol. She frequently blacked
out, rendering her incapable of taking care of herself. Her addiction
escalated to hydromorphone and she developed an infection on her heart
valve from using a dirty needle.

Bricey had open-heart surgery to replace the valve. "We're giving you
a second chance," the heart surgeon told her. "The success rate is
three percent if you don't go on methadone."

Fridfinnson could not bear the thought of losing another child, so she
did everything she could to support her daughter. "She seemed to be
doing well for some time, but when she stopped phoning and wasn't
responding to messages, I knew she fell off the wagon," she said.

Her daughter ended up in the hospital again. Bricey called her mother
and asked her to come visit. At the hospital, Fridfinnson learned that
Bricey's heart infection had returned and her kidneys were not
functioning properly.

The doctor gave her hydromorphone when she left the hospital to
prevent withdrawal. It was at that point Fridfinnson realized she was
losing her daughter.

"I realized that all I could do is love her. I don't care if she had
to use right in front of me. I accepted her as she was and I just
wanted to be with her and love her," Fridfinnson said. Fridfinnson
dropped to the floor again on March 28, 2017, when her two sisters
came to the door in the morning to tell her Bricey had passed.

In the end, her daughter died from endocarditis and she had numerous
drugs, including hydromorphone, in her system. "She just went to
sleep. I am so glad she didn't suffer."

Moms Stop The Harm helps broken-hearted mothers channel grief into

What becomes of the broken-hearted mothers who have lost their
children to addiction? Many seek out others who have suffered the same
loss. Fridfinnson has drawn strength from women she met through Moms
Stop the Harm (MSTH).

MSTH is a network of Canadian mothers and families whose loved ones
have died due to substance use or hope for recovery.

Their mandate is to call for an end to the failed war on drugs and to
focus on a new approach based on harm reduction in which people who
use drugs are treated with respect, compassion and support. They also
try to shatter the stigma associated with opioid addiction through
educating the public.

A recent initiative of MSTH is to send photos of the children they
lost to the opioid epidemic to the prime minister with the goal of
spurring on action to combat the opioid crisis.

Arlene Last-Kolb, who lost her son July 18, 2014 at the age of 24,
sent 160 photographs of her son to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with
a purple heart on the envelope that represents overdose.

"They say 160 people are touched by a death. That's why I sent 160
photographs to show the impact that my son's death had on 160 people,"
said Last-Kolb.

MSTH helps Fridfinnson put one foot in front of the other and channel
her grief. "I will never laugh like I once laughed, but I will go on
for the sake of my oldest son, his wife and my three

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If you or a loved one needs help with an addiction, call the Manitoba
Addictions Hotline at 1-855-662-6605 or visit You
may also drop in to the River Point Centre, located at 146 Magnus
Avenue, Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, Addictions Recovery Inc.,
Behavioural Health Foundation, Esther House, Health Sciences Centre
(Addiction Unit), Main Street Project, Native Addictions Council of
Manitoba, The Laurel Centre, Rosaire House Addiction Centre, The
Salvation Army (Anchorage Program), St. Raphael Wellness Centre,
Tamarack Recovery Centre and Two Ten Recovery. The partners range from
detox centres to evening, nonresidential, recovery-based programs.
Links to the resources can be found on


Opioid Deaths in Manitoba

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reports on substance overdose
deaths. Opioids have been a primary or contributing cause of death in
approximately half of these deaths annually: 2013: 87 out of 162
deaths (54%) 2014: 94 out of 175 deaths (54%) 2015: 85 out of 182
deaths (47%) 2016 (Jan-Jun): 63 out of 124 deaths (51%) Data also
shows an increase in overdose deaths where fentanyl, including the
analog carfentanil, is present.

Hospitalizations due to opioid poisoning (Apr 01, 2015- Mar 31, 2016):

Intensive care unit admissions due to suspected opioid poisoning
(Jan-jun 2016): 10 (Winnipeg Health Region only)

Naloxone kits distributed through the Take-home naloxone
program(2016): Manitoba (total): 250 Naloxone kits shipped from
provincial Materials Distribution Agency warehouse (Dec 29, 2016- Jan
27, 2017): 395

*Source: Epidemiology & Surveillance Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active 
Living, The Government of Manitoba Source:


If you or someone you care about is at risk of opioid overdose, you
may drop in to the Street Connections office at 496 Hargrave Street
(Main Floor) Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and ask to see
a nurse about the naloxone program. You will be trained to recognize
the signs of an overdose and how to give someone naloxone. You will
receive a free kit and the entire visit should take less than an hour.
Street Connections' website features an interactive that shows where
take-home naloxone kits can be accessed for free. Visit
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MAP posted-by: Matt