When Nick and Jack Savage decided to take oxycodone at a graduation party on June 14, 2014, they didn’t think about the potential danger. They had already been drinking, their mother, Becky, said, lowering their risk averse behavior.
“They were smart kids,” she said. “They made one bad choice. Why they did, we may never know.”
Five people took the pills that another boy brought to the party. They all overdosed. Three survived. Nick and Jack died.
Nearly five years later, Becky Savage told the Culver Academies students, faculty, and staff about the morning after, the agony her family has gone through, and the fight they carry forward through their 525 Foundation to raise awareness about prescription medication abuse – especially opioids.
She spoke at the Feb. 20th all-school meeting as part of Sam Lucchese’s senior service project. Lucchese, from Elkhart, Ind., knows the pain the Savages have experienced – as do other Culver families – having played hockey with their sons through the Irish Youth Hockey program.
The Savages live in nearby Granger, Ind., and their sons were members of the Penn hockey team, playing against Culver’s Varsity A and Varsity B teams. She noted that her youngest son, Matthew, broke his arm during Penn’s last game against Culver. She smiled and added, “Thanks for that.”
Before introducing Savage, Lucchese said that in the past year opioid overdoses have claimed “more lives in our age group” than car crashes – and 80 percent of those overdoses were accidental. During her talk, Savage added that, in 2015, there were more opioid overdose deaths than fatalities from Hurricane Katrina and September 11th combined.
“Today, one person dies every 25 minutes from an overdose,” she said.
Savage described the morning she found Jack in his bed. She thought he was sleeping. “I thought he looked like an angel,” she said. She began picking up laundry in his room and called for him to wake up but he didn’t respond. When she went to wake him, she knew something was wrong. A nurse, she pulled him out of his bed and started CPR.
“I am trained to save people’s lives,” she said. Emergency crews were called but they couldn’t revive him.
As she started down the stairs following the paramedic, asking him to please not give up on her son, she heard another emergency responder ask someone to call the coroner. It was for Nick, who was in the basement. She called her husband, who was gone, and told him to hurry home. After he made it through the maze of emergency vehicles and entered their home, she told him, “’They’re gone.’” He collapsed on the floor.
“It was the last real thing I remember that day,” she said. And they had to tell their two youngest sons that “their older brothers had died.”
Nick had just finished his freshman year at Indiana University, where he was studying microbiology and chemistry. Jack had graduated from Penn with honors and planning to go to Ball State University. Both had been captain of the hockey team their senior year. Both were student leaders at Penn. “They were smart kids who made one bad choice.”
The oxycodone came from someone’s medicine cabinet. Of the 4.3 million Americans who took prescription opioids last month, 60 percent were for non-medical use and those pills came from a family member or friend, she said.
When faced with this choice, “do not bow to peer pressure,” she said. She also explained that if students are in a situation where someone is overdosing, there is a law in Indiana that protects them from prosecution if they call 911 to report that that person is in trouble. The Lifeline Law protects the caller “who stayed and did the right thing.”
The Savage family wants their story to make a difference. That is why they started the 525 Foundation (the boys’ hockey numbers were 5 and 25). The video she showed the students about the boys is available on the foundation’s Facebook page.
Now, nearly five years later, she still thinks about everything her sons lost – their family, their friends, their dreams. And she reminded everyone they still have that choice.
“Live the dreams you want. You are able to decide who you are and who you want to be.”