'Enough fentanyl to kill an elephant': Mother who loses son to overdose hopes to save lives

A mother is mourning the loss of her son, who died in Seattle from a fentanyl overdose in mid-November. Now, she hopes her story will help bring light to the ongoing drug crisis impacting families across the nation.

Justine Shawver, who currently lives in North Carolina, lost her son Jonathan earlier this month at the age of 31. All she has left of him are these words, "Hey mom, I hope you’re doing well, I’m doing okay, I’ll talk to you later. Alright bye, love you." This was a voicemail he left her on Nov. 8, saying he was in Boise, Idaho and was safe.

Words Shawver keeps replaying after her sister knocked on her door, saying she received a call from the King County Medical Examiner’s Office with news no parent ever wants to hear. 

Jonathan accidentally overdosed on fentanyl. 

"My heart was just shattered, he didn't know what he was taking, he thought he was doing heroin," Shawver said. "It was enough fentanyl to kill an elephant." 

Medics tried CPR for 30 minutes, but his family says Jonathan died instantly. 

"He didn't suffer," Shawver said. 

She flew up to the Emerald City to do what no parent ever should – help identify his body. 

"The medical examiner gave me this necklace and $1 bill, and that was all that was on his person," Shawver said. 

She says the hardest part of the trip was having to sign for his remains, but it gave her closure. 

"I was able to see him, and brought him his baby blanket and bring his stuffed animals and lay them on him," Shawver said. 

Her son’s life lost caused by the ongoing drug crisis impacting family’s across the country.

Shawver saw firsthand, people are living with an illness – addiction – in remote areas, downtown and neighborhoods.

RELATED: Detectives bust prolific fentanyl operation in Snohomish County allegedly run by one man

Mike Kersey has been sober for 23 years and leads the Courage to Change Recovery Services in Everett. 

"Addiction doesn't discriminate," Kersey said. 

Everyday Kersey is out trying to help others overcome their illness and seek treatment. 

He says the depth of addiction to fentanyl is alarming – it’s 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. 

"What would be a seven-day detox has now turned into – it really takes 18 months, because the synthetic sink into the bone marrow," Kersey said. 

The reality of is, there's just not enough funding, bed space, or detox centers. 

As Shawver gets ready to lay her son to rest she’s hoping his story will help save someone else’s life. 

RELATED: DOJ: Authorities in WA, CA arrest 11 drug traffickers connected to massive cartel operation

"I can find some peace in that this Thanksgiving, but I just hope that Jonathan's story of his sweet, precious life and what he knew he had to offer that others will seek that for themselves," Shawver said. 

Jonathan will be laid to rest Sunday in North Carolina. 

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