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Widow shares heartbreak of husband's opioid overdose

DES MOINES, Iowa (WOI) - After an uptick of opioid overdoses in 2017, Iowa has seen a decrease in deaths since the beginning of the year. 

Deborah Thompson lost her husband because of an opioid addiction. She is now sharing her story as a way to help keep those numbers low.

Walking into her home it feels a little more empty now that is because her husband Joe lost his life because of a battle with opioid addiction.

"Looking at this guy, you would never think he would overdose twice and die in the next six weeks," said Deborah.

But that is exactly what happened to her husband.

Joe was prescribed painkillers after a car accident, and he battled his addiction on and off for years afterward.

"It wasn't an everyday thing it wasn't an every month thing of every year," Deborah said.

Joe left behind a wife and his one-year-old son, Lincoln

Joe's family worked to get him help, but the stigma and lack of knowledge of the disease made things difficult.

"Deeply, I felt that it was a personal problem, and we would figure out how to manage it ourselves," said Deborah.

According to Kevin Gabbert with the Iowa Department of Public Health, the early statistics for opioid-related deaths are down for this year.

"To go from a 14 percent increase one year to a 35 percent decrease that is significant," said Gabbert.

He credits a few things for that.

"We've had expanded medication treatment we've been working hard to get narloxin available in the community," Gabbert said.

Iowa has made strides on the legislative side but just talking about the disease can help break down the stigma, and Deborah knows that.

"It takes a village to help people out of this disease," she said.

Two years later missing him doesn't get any easier.

"I would turn to this chair to comment to him where he would be sitting," she said.

She hopes sharing his story helps others like him. And in the meantime, she knows her husband is taking care of his family.

"I know he is taking care of us as best he can, from where he is at, I still feel him and I think I always will."


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