Sudden Silence: Hidden Voices
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Sudden Silence: Hidden Voices is an adaptation of a photo voice project funded through a Vancouver Community Action Grant. The purpose of this project is to highlight the tragedy of the overdose crisis and introduce some of those who have been lost. Their loss is most keenly felt through their loved ones. Their grief cannot be described in words and is their constant companion. This project also focusses on the impact of the stigma for using drugs and of how safe supply might have made a difference.
Photo by Gabrielle Beer
Intelligent, Caring, Loved the Outdoors
Patrick was a friendly, intelligent, caring man. He loved being in the outdoors and was always game for anything ‘outdoorsy’. He had a life-long love of camping and hiking. Patrick was always a “hands-on” person. When he was 8, he took apart his dad’s computer and had pieces of it spread across the floor. When his mom saw what he had done she said she hoped he could put it back together. Patrick did...before his dad came home!
Patrick struggled with ADHD throughout school and discovered that he learned best on his own.
He started to experiment with drugs when he was in high school. In one of his classes, he became friends with other kids who were using drugs and alcohol. Patrick was not much for alcohol, so he was always the Designated Driver for his friends. Patrick was a cautious but also a curious person and it is likely he tried some drugs with his buddies.
Patrick went on to pursue a career in IT. He became a trouble shooter, always solving complicated network issues. He was a reliable and valued worker. He never missed work. When he was in his 30s, he had a serious workplace accident. He was busy setting up a network when the floor suddenly gave way. Patrick fell two stories. He landed in such a way that one of his feet broke in many places. It was a painful injury, and he was prescribed medication to help deal with the pain.
Before his injury Patrick had been agile; he climbed up and down ladders with ease. When he returned to work, he found some of the physical requirements were now incredibly painful. He continued to use pain medication so that he could work. Eventually his doctor would not prescribe any more pain meds. However, the pain in his foot persisted and at times made it very difficult to work. He was never pain free. Patrick started to look for meds from outside sources. He became one of the many who work and use drugs, often with no one knowing. He found that smoking heroin helped with the pain, and he became addicted to it. Like so many, it was never his intention to become addicted through trying to deal with his physical pain. When Patrick realized that he was addicted, he tried methadone programs several times.
The stigma of using drugs weighed heavily on Patrick. He never wanted anyone to know and was always concerned that someone would find out. The union Patrick belonged to provided a good drug and alcohol program for union members, but Patrick never felt he could access this. He was afraid of losing his job if anyone found out he was using drugs and so he kept his use hidden, especially from those at work.
In the last few months of his life, Patrick decided to quit all drugs. Addiction is a disorder where relapses often happen despite an individual’s serious intention not to use. Patrick managed to stay free of drugs for 37 days. Then he relapsed. He sought out a dealer and was sold some ‘heroin’ which was always his DOC (drug of choice). It is likely that Patrick smoked the amount he had used before quitting 37 days ago. Unfortunately, what Patrick was sold was not heroin but fentanyl. Fentanyl can be as much as 50 times stronger than heroin and so when people use the amount they would normally have used, they overdose. If a person who has overdosed is found quickly and rescue breathing is started or someone has a Naloxone kit, they might survive the overdose. But this day, Patrick smoked some “heroin” as he sat alone in his work vehicle. This is where he was found hours later.
If there had been a safe supply available, Patrick could have used this and so would most likely be alive today.
Among many others things, Patrick is missed for his skills as the family ‘go to’ IT guy. To his mom, Lizzy, Patrick was also her workout buddy and support person. The community has suffered a big loss because Patrick is gone. He volunteered renovating houses for non-profit organizations. He also volunteered at Amnesty International and was a supporter of international human rights. Patrick was a friend to a lot of people and he always stayed on good terms with everyone he met. Patrick loved all animals. He is very much missed by many.