LAPLACE — The inaugural National Fentanyl Awareness Day was observed May 10 in response to a growing epidemic. For Daniel and Regina Vicknair of LaPlace, fentanyl awareness is a year-round effort in loving memory of their only child, Kyle James Vicknair.
Kyle passed away at 29 years old on November 23, 2020. What should have been a normal night became the devastating culmination of a 10-year battle with addiction.
Danny and Regina have memorialized their son through the “Keeping Your Love Eternally” Facebook group. By selling furniture and other donated items, the Vicknairs have raised money for local charities close to their son’s heart, including the St. John Parish Animal Shelter, the St. John Sheriff’s Office Bulletproof Vest Fund, St. Jude Children’s Hospital Research Center and Covenant House of New Orleans.
Regina Vicknair’s grief compels her to instill the following message in today’s youth: Don’t sacrifice your future, say “no” to drugs, and stay steadfast in your decision.
“I want to make the community aware of the damage that fentanyl can do. I don’t want another family, another parent, to live with this torture that we have of losing a child in that manner. Doing drugs is costly to the addict and their family,” Regina said. “I have talked to two young guys about the use of drugs, and when I told them Kyle’s story, they were actually crying. They seemed to take it to heart. If I can save one person, I am good with that.”
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is approximately 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. The drug is described as “inexpensive, widely available and highly addictive,” and the DEA warns that drug traffickers are increasingly mixing fentanyl with other illicit drugs in both powder and pill form to drive addiction.
The CDC estimates that nearly 107,000 people in the United States died from drug overdose between November 2020 and November 2021, and 66% of those deaths involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
The day of Kyle’s fatal overdose will always be etched in his parents’ memories.
Regina rose early the morning of November 23, 2020. Her mind was heavy as she sipped on her cup of coffee, reflecting on a terrible argument she had with Kyle the night before.
She resolved to speak to him when he woke up, but she never got the chance.
Kyle was still sleeping around 10 am when she left the house to go Christmas shopping with her sister-in-law and children. When the girls returned from shopping at 5 pm, exhausted after the long day, Kyle walked down the porch to talk to his aunt. About 10 minutes later, I have answered a phone call and walked away in a hurry.
It was around 7 pm when Regina, relaxing in bed, heard a loud thump rattle the house. She instantly thought of the noise she heard when Kyle fell to the floor during a previous overdose. Reminding herself that Kyle had been clean for over five months, she tried to chase those thoughts away. Eventually her mother’s intuition took over, and she asked Danny to check on their son.
That’s when the world seemed to fall apart.
Danny had to break down the door to get into the bathroom. He ran back into the master bedroom crying, “Call 911! I think Kyle is gone.”
It was all a blur as EMTs arrived along with three deputies. They worked on Kyle for 45 minutes, but it was too late. The deputy officer waited with Danny and Regina until the coroner arrived at 11 pm Watching the funeral drivers arrive with a black body bag just after midnight was a sight no parent should ever have to endure. Regina felt especially anguished that she never got to hug Kyle one last time and apologize for the argument the night before.
Kyle’s drug addiction started when he was 19 years old. After graduating with honors from St. Charles Catholic, he attended LSU, but just one pill offered to him at a party was all it took to completely derail his future from him.
Within five days, he was hooked. Kyle was in and out of trouble for the next 10 years as his addiction drove him to make poor decisions involving drugs and alcohol. Through it all, his parents saw who he truly was – an intelligent, helpful and kind young man who loved to make people laugh.
He was an animal lover who stood against violence, and his favorite Bible verse was Matthew 25:40: ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” He would go out of his way to help anyone, even strangers.
In one instance, Kyle and his father were driving to a gun show when they encountered a woman on the side of the road with a flat tire. Danny said she probably had a cell phone and that help would be there soon, but Kyle insisted that if it were his mother or grandmother stranded, he would want someone to stop. It turned out the woman had left her cell phone at home, and she was grateful for Kyle’s help from her.
“His character was one of a loving person. One who believed in Jesus Christ. One who would do anything for anyone. In his life he never hurt anyone except for himself. He was the type of person who didn’t want to be an addict. He just got caught up in it,” Regina said.
Kyle worked as a safety coordinator at the Little Gypsy Plant and took his job very seriously. He was a functioning addict, and that’s why Regina believes it’s so important to dispel the myth that drug addicts are only found on the streets, begging for money.
“An addict can be your typical, every day person, and you may not know how the family and the person themselves are struggling with it. No one wants to publicize that they are an addict, so we have to make people aware of the consequences,” she said.
The Vicknairs began the first fundraiser in honor of Kyle on what would have been his 30th birthday. Since then, they have continued to keep his spirit alive through charitable donations. The community has shown support by donating and purchasing furniture through Kyle’s memorial page.
“It’s not a huge nonprofit, but we’re making enough to where we can give back monthly to some charities. I just know my son would love that,” Regina said.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to get in touch with the Vicknair family.