PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — After the loss of her son to drugs, one Pender County mom is trying to help those affected by heroin and drug abuse.
Cindy Patane lost her son, Matthew, in April. She said he died in a heroin overdose. He was 21 years old.
“He was my sports star. He was star of the high school soccer team,” Patane said. “He was my popular youngin’. Everyone wanted to be around him.”
She said he started experimenting with marijuana in high school, and after he graduated from Dixon High School she said he moved on to prescription medication. He then began using heroin.
“It controlled me. I mean for three years, I was controlled,” Patane said. “I begged him and begged him all the time, please go get help, but you can’t make them. You can’t make them go get help.”
Patane said her son was in and out of treatment facilities.
“He would text me, ‘I’m trying mom. I’m not using. I need to get my license back. I need to go to school.’ He wanted to. He had dreams and goals like everyone else,” Patane said.
She said when the cost to go to rehab got to be too high, her son moved back to Pender County.
“He was home pretty much all the time, but unbeknownst to us, when we would go to work during the day, dealers would come to him,” Patane said.
Then in April, she said her son took his last breath.
“I sent him a text that night at 11:29 p.m., and I said, ‘I love you son. With God all things are possible. Pray for him to heal your pain and your addiction,'” Patane said.
A mother found her baby boy the next morning. She said she yelled for her other children to help.
“Help me, your brother is overdose. He’s not breathing. I was like, ‘call 911, call 911,’ and about that time I was screaming, and his sister heard and she came out and asked. I was hardly breathing, and his brother took over with chest compressions,” Patane recalled.
But it was too late. Her son was gone.
Matthew’s story is becoming common in the Cape Fear and in Pender County. Pender County Sheriff Carson Smith spoke with WWAY recently about the growing problems with heroin in Pender County. He also touched on the lack of resources in the area.
Patane said she turned to God for support during her time of grief. Her grief then turned to action.
“I knew what I had to do,” Patane said. “I was like I have got to figure out a way to help these kids.”
Kids like her son. Kids like her son’s friends.
“I remember sitting on this couch right here and looking at Matthew’s picture and was like, ‘All right son. You have to help me write this post to help your friends, because he has so many friends here that I know need help.”
She’s now started fundraising to help addicts stay in long-term rehab centers, pay for medication and other types of support. So far, she’s raised more that $10,000. Aside from raising money, Patane said there needs to be changes made in the school system. She’s also a full-time teacher at Dixon Elementary.
“We know curriculum needs to be updated away from the alcohol and cigarettes,” Patane said. “That’s not the issue anymore. Yes, those things need to be addressed as younger, elementary levels and throughout school, but middle and high school programs need to be updated to address prescription drug use, opiate use, heroin use.”
She’s also working with a task force to focus on prevention, treatment, harm reduction and law enforcement.
“There’s a woman in Pender County who sold my son a pill the night he died,” she said. “An opana, which is an oxy and morphine combination, for $17.”
She hopes police will crack down on anyone who enables drug use. She also hopes her work will help prevent anyone from having to go through what she is now going through — grieving and remembering a lost child.