John Hindman on what’s required of parenting today ~
“Vigilance is required, irrespective of where we are. Parents didn’t just turn us out and leave us to our own devices when we were kids. It’s just more vigilant parenting is required, because this is indeed very pernicious.”
Brian Wilson: In today’s busy corporate culture it’s easy for an email to slip through the cracks. But in the case of Leidos employee John and the company’s CEO Roger Krone one email had a huge impact. But, let’s back up, we will begin with a story about John’s son Sean, whose life was lost to opioid addiction.
Brian Wilson: John, I want you to start by telling me about your son, Sean. Tell me what kind of kid he was growing up.
John Hindman: Sean was a good kid. Somewhat slight of build, about 5’9″. Gifted athlete, tremendous soccer player. He was a younger brother to my daughter, Allison. He was overall a quiet kid. Liked to associate with older kids, but began to get exposed to drugs, probably … The first time we were aware of it, he was about 11 when he reported to us. He was counseled and stayed away from things until probably when he was about 13.
Brian Wilson: How did it start?
John Hindman: It was at somebody’s house. Prescription drugs that were made available by the friends who lived at that house.
That’s not uncommon in our society today, unfortunately. Thus began his exposure to pills, and marijuana, and other hard drugs. And eventually, in the final years of his life, to heroin.
Brian Wilson: So, this started at the age of 11. How many years did he struggle with it?
John Hindman: Probably from the struggle standpoint, I would say the last decade of his life. Maybe 15 years, all together.
Brian Wilson: Wow.
John Hindman: In terms of in and out of usage, staying clean. But, as is often the case in situations like this, it impacts your ability to be fully employed, and it takes a toll on individuals in that regard.
John Hindman: His final days, things were going, actually, very well for him the year before he passed. He had been clean for about half a year. It was in May of 2016, he came home with a young man, was actually someone he had known from high school, and announced that this young man would be working with him in the roofing crew that he worked with for several days.
My wife begged him not to engage this individual because it was clear he was high. Regrettably, within the matter of two weeks, Sean was back into using heroin again. Thus began a very precipitous decline that summer.
The Friday before he passed, a friend of his had called me to ask if I had NARCAN in the house, because his sister had overdosed. And I sought out Sean, who was hard to find in those final weeks, and months, even despite his living with us. He didn’t have any NARCAN, but he went and found, and got NARCAN, and went and visited this friend that Sunday. Went out with several friends, came home about 2:30 in the morning, absolutely stone sober. My wife let him in, went to bed, and when each of us got up to go to work the next morning, went to put our hands on the doorknob to tell him have a good day, because they weren’t working that day. And neither of us, for some reason we stopped, and didn’t go in to bother him.
When my wife got home from work, she didn’t hear any noise from him, she just thought that was not all that unusual, it was early afternoon. About an hour later, she texted him and got no response, and ran upstairs and found him dead. So, she attempted CPR, and called the EMTs and notified me, and I came home.
Brian Wilson: We’ll be right back.
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John Hindman: The last day before his funeral where in my computer was seized with a virus. So, I called the company help desk to notify them, and they wanted to jump on it immediately, and I told them why I had to push off, it was an audible, sharp intake of breath at the other end of the phone. He goes, “My son’s a heroin addict also.” That just struck me that there were far too many coincidences, if you will, all real bad.
Thus became the kernel of the letter that I wrote to Roger Krone.
Roger Krone: I got a longer than normal email from an employee who works in one of our DOE programs out Pittsburg. And I started reading it and it just really reached out and grabbed my heart.
Brian Wilson: Leidos CEO Roger Krone.
Roger Krone: The way I look at it is this. Somebody was going to write a letter. It didn’t have to be me, it was going to be somebody. And point out that we’re not alone as an individual. That this is a real issue, not just in Leidos, we’re but a microcosm of this country. But, this is national, and quite honestly, a global problem.
Roger Krone: It was sort of a call to action. He said “Listen I am doing all I can to raise awareness in the Pittsburgh area. What can the company you do and what can you do?” And, I just reached out, and I said, “I wasn’t all that aware of the pervasiveness of this as an epidemic.”
John Hindman: Couple of weeks later, I received a phone call from the office of our corporate Vice President for Communications. She said, “You did something that doesn’t happen all that often in corporate America, particularly in a company of this size. You broke through to senior management, and you did so in a manner that was powerful, effective, and respectful. And, she said, “Roger wanted me to share his exact words with you, so here goes.” I said, “Okay.” And she said, “You broke me down. We’re in, we’re all in.” Quite frankly, that’s where Leidos has been since that time.
Brian Wilson: Tell me some of the things they’ve done since “getting in”.
John Hindman: One of the first activities that Leidos did was in the greater D.C. area, partnering with a local foundation in distributing NARCAN. So, there’ve been a number of town halls, looking at ways that we can come up with solutions for both the addict, the care provider, government agencies, so on and so forth.
So, it’s quite a dramatic campaign, both internal and external.
Brian Wilson: John, what would you say to parents right now, who may be listening to your story.
John Hindman: You have to question your children’s friends. You have to pay close attention if there’s dramatic changes in circles of friends and behaviors. Performance in school, and socialization, and all of those things. Peer pressure’s very, very strong. Decidedly different from when we were young. We have both instant gratification and disappointment through social media that we carry around in a cell phone. There’s been the beginnings of some research that’s linking social media and its impact on self- worth, and self-medication, unfortunately.
Vigilance is required, irrespective of where we are. Parents didn’t just turn us out and leave us to our own devices when we were kids. It’s just more vigilant parenting is required, because this is indeed very pernicious.
Roger Krone: There are parents out there who probably don’t even know what the signs look like. Because we haven’t been talking about this for very long. And because it starts often under a doctors care, their having to deal with a medical condition, instead of “Well if I have a prescription for these medicines then it’s ok.” And the answer is abusive anything whether it’s prescription or not prescription is not ok.
Brian Wilson: Imagine that someone is sitting here listening to this, and it’s starting to ring bells in their lives. They’re starting to see patterns, that perhaps they have not seen before. They’re starting to suspect whether something has gone horribly wrong in their own family. What advice would you give them?
John Hindman: Don’t wait. Engage. Once your suspicions become more than passing, and to the extent that your loved one listens, seek professional help. Whether it’s in-patient, out-patient. But, sooner is better than later. All this is against the backdrop of the knowledge that if indeed, your loved one is addicted, particularly if it’s opioids, that multiple exposures to treatment are gonna be necessary.
As a society, both in terms of the financial wear with all the families to cope with this, our insurance networks and health systems, this is very much a tidal wave that we’re being asked to staunch with sand bags.
Parents, family members out there, who have friends or loved ones, whether if you’ve lost somebody, to opioids, my heartfelt condolences. If you have somebody struggling with it, again, thoughts and prayers are with you, and do not give up. It’s a hard fight. The addict needs us, as much as we need them.
Brian Wilson: You know, I want to say thank you for telling this story. I know as painful as it is to tell the story about Sean and his life, and how things ended, by telling this story, you are perhaps, helping others. Thank you.
John Hindman: I appreciate this. Since his passing, a number of people have come up to us from around the Pittsburgh area to share with us stories about Sean in his final Summer. Perhaps most notable from several of them is when we thought he was going to Halifax to score, he wasn’t. He was going there to help somebody who lived there who was fighting with addiction. So, there are people alive today because of our son’s efforts. Just as there are around the country, based on the efforts of other men and women who saw the good in others, but didn’t see it in themselves.
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