September 2, 2015 9:50 pm
Updated: September 3, 2015 9:11 am

Global News reporter shares heartbreaking story about losing brother to fentanyl

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WATCH: For the first time, the family of a fentanyl victim speaks about their loss. Meaghan Craig has their message of grief, anger and hope for others facing the challenges associated with the illegal drug.

SASKATOON – She is the bright, smiley face that helps you get up in the morning. Joelle Tomlinson may seem upbeat during her live hits throughout the city for Global Saskatoon’s Morning News, but these last couple months have been her darkest.

A little over six months ago, Joelle lost her brother to a fentanyl overdose. Now Joelle and her family are sharing their story for the first time.

Global's own Joelle Tomlinson and her family open up about their families devastating loss.

Remembering a conversation as though it was yesterday, Joelle said it was in March of 2014 when she got a phone call from her older brother Stefan asking her to pick him up downtown. As he walked to the car, she noticed something different, he was now a shell of the person he once was.

“It’s hard to talk to somebody that you know is using drugs because they have every excuse in the books, he first tried to lie to me and I think he realized that wasn’t going to fly,” said Joelle.

“I said to him this is going to kill to you.”

On Feb. 28 at just 25-years-old, Stefan took a pill, went to sleep and never woke up. His body was discovered the next day.Global's own Joelle Tomlinson and her family open up about their families devastating loss.

Story continues below

Doug and Faye Tomlinson, Joelle’s parents, were in Montreal at the time of his death. They were celebrating Doug’s birthday and belated Christmas all wrapped up into one and were due back late Sunday afternoon.

“I remember telling him I wanted to go home so we caught the earliest flight Sunday morning,” said Faye, choking back tears.

Before arriving Faye had a feeling something wasn’t right after not hearing  from her son.

“I knew something was wrong but because my mom is elderly I thought maybe something is wrong with her. We never [tied it] to Stefan but I did text him in the afternoon to see if everything was OK but he never replied back.”

An hour later, police officers were on their front step to give them the news.

“I was lying in bed and I missed a call from my dad because I was on the phone,” said Joelle. “I listened to the voicemail and it just said ‘Joelle you have to call me’.”

She phoned her father back and was immediately told that her brother had died.

“There are no words for getting a phone call like that especially when you’re on your own. It was a tough day.”

 

Global's own Joelle Tomlinson and her family open up about their families devastating loss.

Doug Tomlinson describes the day as devastating and knew his son had been going through some tough times but thought the fog would eventually clear.

“I can’t say that it was hard to believe I knew that he’d been probably doing some sort of drugs, self-medication if you want to call it that, but not the way that it happened.”

Watch below: Joelle Tomlinson speaks about her brother’s death due to a fentanyl overdose and the support she has received from the community

Stefan’s family says he wasn’t dumb, just fearless. His mother, an emergency room nurse, even warned him of the dangers of the drug.

“I think people are oblivious to it and really do have that attitude that it will not happen to me, said it can’t happen to me,” Faye Tomlinson.

“It can’t happen to me.”

But the reality is, it does. An estimated 655 Canadian families across the country between 2009 and 2014 lost a loved one to a fentanyl-related overdose.

READ MORE: Fentanyl fact sheet: what it is and what it does

In Saskatchewan, there have been 10 deaths every year since 2013 and five as of Aug. 31. These numbers don’t always paint a complete picture as toxicology reports take up to six months or more to get back.

fentanyl-chart-one-place-of-death

READ MORE: Fentanyl: Will the situation get worse before it gets better?

“You can only imagine how many more are out there and then you have to sit in the news and talk about it as a third party when you’re not, you’re right in the midst of it so it’s been pretty difficult,” said Joelle.

“I just knew in heart he died of Fentanyl and all I need was the confirmation,” said Faye.

Which triggered the grieving process all over but compelled the Tomlinson’s to come forward to try to save others from this deadly drug. Officials told the family if the first pill Stefan took hadn’t killed him, the second one left by his bedside would have.

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“You can only imagine how many more are out there and then you have to sit in the news and talk about it as a third party when you’re not, you’re right in the midst of it so it’s been pretty difficult,” said Joelle.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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