'One bad pill': Parents of Ottawa teen killed by opioid overdose speak out
First posted: Friday, February 24, 2017 08:29 PM EST | Updated: Friday, February 24, 2017 08:44 PM EST
Teslin Russell’s heartbroken parents have been left with two hard-to-reconcile images of their 18-year-old daughter. One, the high-achieving student who taught children to skate every Saturday. The other, the young woman found lifeless on the family’s bathroom floor after an opioid overdose.
Looking back now, Rilee and Bob Russell say nothing about Teslin had changed leading up to her death: Her personality, interests and bank account yielded no clues.
“That’s the hard part for us,” Rilee said Friday. “There was no indication. We’re not having the luxury of having the knowledge that she had a problem to even try and fix. … It’s very difficult for us to grasp that this has even happened.
“She just got that one bad pill.”
Unfortunately, bad pills are increasingly common in Canada as counterfeit opioids laced with deadly contaminants, such as fentanyl, are making their way into the hands of drug users. As police continue to investigate the drug overdose deaths of two teenagers in Ottawa, including Teslin, Bob and Rilee have gone public with their daughter’s story in the hopes of educating teens and parents on the dangers of opioids.
In her final year of high school, Teslin dreamed of becoming a nurse. Her parents said she had “worked hard her whole life,” earning top marks and had been given a spot in a pre-nursing program.
A “fierce” CanSkate competitor, Teslin won more than 60 medals in her figure skating career. She also dedicated much of her time to coaching children with disabilities as part of the CanSkate program, said Rilee, waking up early every Saturday even after going out with friends the night before.
“(The children) gravitated to Teslin,” Bob said. “It was an indication of her love for helping kids and why she wanted to become a nurse and help people. This was something that came very naturally to her.”
Adding to her list of extracurriculars, Teslin worked as an assistant at a physiotherapy clinic, in preparation for a career in nursing.
But on Dec. 31, the young woman whom Bob and Rilee described as full of love, laughter and friendship died suddenly.
“We had all gone to bed and she must have gone into the washroom and whether she did some that night, it’s not clear to us, but she basically went to sleep on the floor. … There was no trauma,” Bob said. “It was hard for us to even understand because we didn’t know about the opioids at that point, and we couldn’t understand why she just died.”
Today, Bob and Rilee say Ottawa needs to do more to deal with the opioid crisis that’s emerged in North America. They say there aren’t enough drug-abuse treatment centres here, for instance.
“As this (opioid crisis) comes out to light, they’re going to need more and more and more (treatment centres) … because if they don’t get these children in on time, their next pill might kill them,” Rilee said.
“You can’t blame (drug users). You need to educate and help them learn how to get through it, just like everything else in life,” Bob added.
Ending drug abuse starts at home, said Bob, urging parents to take the initiative and have conversations with their children.
“You need to start having very, very open conversations with your kids about the dangers of this drug,” he said. “It’s not about getting angry with them. It’s about making sure they understand and helping them.
“These kids need to hear it,” said Rilee. “They need to hear it in their circle of friends. They need to read it off of Facebook. They need to get it in their mind that a quarter of a pill can kill them and it’s Russian roulette.
“They need to be afraid for themselves and the parents need to know this.”
Teslin Russell died in December. Her parents are now speaking out about opioid overdoses.
'One bad pill': Parents of Ottawa teen killed by opioid overdose speak out | Ont