The next person who tells me low levels of Meth are no worse for you than second hand smoke – I will punch in the face!!

The next person who tells me low levels of Meth are no worse for you than second hand smoke – I will punch in the face!!

Courtesy Jacqui Owen - 21 September 2017

Two years ago we were living every parents' hell. Rhys had been fine, he had been to Dad’s for dinner and he was fine. Rhys had been in the A&E twice in the 2 weeks leading up to this and he had suffered asthma attacks before. Prior to his first A&E visit 10 days before this ‘BIG ONE’ it had been so long since his last one that we didn’t even have any inhalers in the house.

The kids went to bed, we went to bed, and at 10.45pm I woke up and all I could hear was gasping. Rhys could not breathe at all and whereas in the past we had popped in the car and trundled off to Anglsea Street, tonight I knew we needed an ambulance. Sam called one and we were told to stay on the line as the nearest available ambulance was in Putaruru, 45 mins away. 

By this time Rhys was having his Ventolin inhaler every 5 mins. He was not improving. 

The 111 call centre lady was amazing, she stayed on the line the entire time. So, when all of a sudden we screamed that his eyes had rolled into the back of his head and his lips and face were blue, she reassured us someone would be there soon.

She was not wrong within 10 minutes the air ambulance had arrived – it turns out they were also listening to our call and the minute we said he was unconscious they had lifted off. As they tried to find somewhere to land – which ended up being the road, a local GP from Matamata arrived, as did three ambulances.
Rhys came around and he vomited up an ice cream container full of black tar-like substance – it was many days later we were told what this was. 

It took 13 minutes from the time I hopped into the Helicopter until the time Rhys had a wristband on his arm at triage in the hospital. 

From there it was whirlwind, he was on oxygen and then admitted to a ward. He stabilised overnight but he was exhausted and he was needing permanent oxygen still. 

I guess a mother knows when something isn’t right, I kept saying he was unwell, I kept being told that there was no wheeze so he was fine just tired. I knew they were wrong, and while Sam was at home milking I asked two different nurses to get me a doctor to speak to. 

Then, right there on the ward, he was floppy and blue again. Nurses were telling me to call Sam, to call our parents, to call anyone who might want to say goodbye to Rhys. 

His heart, kidneys, and liver were shutting down, his lungs had reached a point where they had seized, no air in, no air out.

I’m so grateful that Dad and Deb were on their way to visit us at the hospital and as if by magic they arrived as the ICU team and Resus team did. Not long after Sam arrived too and there was nothing we could do but sit and watch the amazing medical staff do their job and save our son. And again, he vomited copious amounts of black tar like mucus.

Had Rhys died that night, we would have put his death down to a terrible Asthma attack, one of the 2,600 such deaths each year. But he survived and we were referred to Asthma Waikato to help prevent this happening again. You cannot imagine our disbelief when they advised us that we needed to get our house tested for Methamphetamine, and you cannot believe our shock when that test showed a positive reading. There is a whole back story to the testing and the issues we had, but I don’t want to get into that, suffice to say that the testing we had done warranted further investigation but provided a surface reading just below the then allowable limits. 

We moved out of that property and we never went back, since then Rhys has put on over 15kgs in weight. The rest of us have shown vast health improvements too.

It was the advice that we received from professionals, that the meth contamination had caused Rhys’ lungs to suffer severe damage which had led to them seizing and giving him internal carbon monoxide poisoning.

We recently had an x-ray taken to show the damage to Rhys’ lungs – there are large dark patches where his lungs have died off, which will hopefully regenerate with the twice daily dose of steroids he now takes for the rest of his life. He will suffer breathing difficulties as he ages.

And so – the next person who tells me low levels of Meth are no worse for you than second hand smoke – I will punch in the face. 

Because even if that statement is true, this is the damage that low levels of meth or second-hand smoke can do to your child.