As Kim Krummrich clutched her son’s lifeless body she thought, “This isn’t real.”
“I was holding Dalton and pleading to him to, “Please, come back,’” she said.
But it was too late. Dalton Lee Clark had been dead for more than four hours before his mother found him lying in bed at their Shiloh home.
“There was no CPR to be done,” said Krummrich, a nurse by trade.
Dalton was just 16, the victim of an overdose of methadone, a synthetic opioid used to treat heroin addicts.
The medication was prescribed to Dalton’s grandmother as a pain killer. The coroner’s report said he had three times what is considered to be a lethal dose of the drug in his body.
“If he had taken one pill less, it would have still killed him,” Krummrich said. “If he would have taken two pills less, it would have still killed him.”
Dalton died on Aug. 13, 2014. A year later, Krummrich can just now talk about the loss of her only child, but she does so with a heart that is still broken.
“There is still not a day when I do not think of him. There is not an hour when I do not cry,” Krummrich told Highland High School students in Highland, Ill. during an assembly last Thursday.
It was the first time Krummrich, who wears Dalton’s ashes in a locket, has ever spoke publicly about her son’s death. But she found the strength by hoping that her story might be the words that end up saving one of the kids in the crowd.
Krummrich pleaded with the students to not believe that taking prescriptions drugs for recreational purposes come without consequence.
“Just because they come in a bottle with directions, and a doctor signs a little piece of paper that says it’s OK to have them, they are not OK,” she said. “I would do anything in the world to have my baby back. My life will never be the same.
“All I ask, if you know of someone, or are that person, please don’t let this be your mom. Please, don’t make her wear your ashes around her neck. Please stop and think. It’s not cool. It’s not fun.”
In addition to telling her own story, Krummrich has set up a Facebook page where children who feel the need to reach out can always find understanding and open arms.
“If the kids want to leave a message, there will be a mother. That mother will be me,” she said. “I will answer every question. I will listen to every story. I will hold your hand and walk you through whatever you need.”
It was Mother’s Day, 2013 when Kari Karidis received a phone call from one of her son’s coworkers who was worried about him.
“She said she was in recovery and saw some of the same signs with Chas,” said Karidis.
A Ph.D. and an assistant principal at Collinsville High School, Karidis questioned she could have failed to recognize the signs herself.
“How could I have not known?” she said.
But Chas was a master of deception. He hid his drug use skillfully.
“I had no idea my son had a secret life,” Karidis said.
Karidis would end up sending Chas to rehab. He would make three trips there between May and August of 2013. But he would be arrested in October. He spent four days in the Madison County Jail before he appeared in “Drug Court” and was sentenced to “intensive day treatment.”
Karidis said her son was determined to beat his addiction.
“He was looking forward to Thanksgiving,” she said.
But Chas relapsed again. On Nov. 4, 2013, Karidis received a telephone call at work, “that no parent should receive.”
Just short of two months after his 23rd birthday, Chas died of a heroin overdose. Emergency room doctors could not save him. He was the 23rd Madison County heroin overdose victim in 2013.
“On the surface, 23 doesn’t sound like much in a year until you break that down a little and realize this means that, on average, we, in Madison County alone, lost one person every two weeks all year,” Karidis said.
“I’m pretty sure I read this information on a publication by the Madison County coroner’s office, and I can’t quote the exact source for you, but that number, 23, is engrained in my mind. I didn’t need to look it up to share it with you.
“You see, statistics aren’t just numbers. Statistics have names and loved ones who must go on with life. We moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandparents and friends, we are the collateral damage. You can’t see that in the statistics.”
Karidis said Chas was not perfect, but he had dreams and goals.
“He wanted to get married,” she said. “He wanted so badly to be a daddy. He wanted to have a good job. He wanted to be someone his younger brother and I could be proud of.”
And he was fighting his demons.
“The day he was rushed to the hospital, he had his ‘One Day at a Time’ coin in his wallet,” Karidis said. “He was wearing this bracelet, the one I now wear every day, that says, ‘Not even once.’ ”
But with heroin, once is all it can take.
“This disease, and addiction is a disease, this disease has no cure. There is only treatment,” Karidis said. “Addicts are not addicts by choice. Ask any one of them and you’ll hear the same thing. They’ll tell you of their regrets, guilt and hopelessness.
“Most, if not all, would tell you that if they had known ‘back then’ what would happen to them, they never would have started to begin with. None of them would tell you that as a child answering the question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ They answered, ‘An addict.’ ”
Connie Rehberger spent her 100th birthday last Thursday like many others. Sure, she was planning to go out to dinner that night with family to celebrate her big day, but before that, she had things to do.
She spent part of the day carefully reading over the annual business report for IBM. (She is a stockholder.)
Rehberger is an avid reader. She also balances her checkbook to the penny, with a pencil. Rehberger has never owned a computer. And she doesn’t plan to buy one.
“I don’t have time to play with it,” she said.
Rehberger, however, has a cell phone. But she does not text.
“I’m just lucky I am able to answer the cell phone,” she said and grinned.
In addition to attending to her finances, Rehberger also took her 10 laps around Legacy Place on her birthday — a daily routine.
“People have said five laps make a mile. I don’t know that for fact,” she said.
Rehberger was born in Lebanon on Dec. 18, 1914. She graduated from Lebanon Community High School in 1932 and the University of Illinois in 1939. She said she would have graduated from college earlier, but she had to drop out a couple years to make money.
After graduating from college, Rehberger taught in a one-room school just outside of O’Fallon for four years.
“I was always good at math,” she said. “I was pretty good at English, but that wasn’t always my top concern. Math came so easy.”
Rehberger then moved to Scotia, N.Y., where she took a clerical job with General Electric on July 1, 1941. She worked at G.E. for 39 years before she retired in 1980.
Rehberger was the oldest of five children. She had three brothers and one sister, who were all younger and have since passed away.
Rehberger never married or had any children, which she said may have contributed to her longevity.
“I would have probably had a few more headaches (if I had married),” she said and laughed.
Over the years, Rehberger has traveled extensively, including once to Africa.
She attended the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., where she volunteered as a temporary accountant.
While on vacation about 15 years ago, Rehberger also rode Space Mountain at Disney World. She thought the indoor roller coaster was initially a movie theater.
“I took the ride for what it was worth,” she recalled.
Last summer, Rehberger took a helicopter ride with her nephew.
“That will be my first and only helicopter ride,” she said. “I wasn’t scared. But at my age, you don’t have to do some things a second time.”
Rehberger moved into Legacy Place in Highland on Jan. 1, 2011. Up until then, she lived on her own in New York. She stopped driving when she was 95.
“When I was in my 90s, I was talking to one of my nieces,” Rehberger recalled. “She asked me if I am living to be 100? I told her I am not going to comment on anything. I am going to take it day by day.”