ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A tragedy for a Newark family is now pushing them to turn their pain into action.
Lucas Ginther lost his life to a drug overdose almost a year ago, but it wasn’t until recently that his family started sharing his story. Their hope is to inspire the community and other addicts, while bringing awareness to overdose prevention.
On November 15th of 2020, Newark firefighter Jamisen Colacino was on call and it turned out to be a morning he will never forget.
“I looked at my phone and it says address and it said an overdose white male, the same age as me. And I just knew that it wasn’t good,” Jamisen said.
His quickly learned, one of his best friends had overdosed.
“I ran right inside. They had him on the floor. They’re already working him and me and a couple other guys here were going in and out working on him as well, and basically picked him up, loading him in the back of the rig because he didn’t have much time,” Jamisen said.
Although Ginther made it to the hospital, he ended up passing away a few days later. It was a tragedy for those who knew and loved him.
“He was just a great soul, great soul. And he had a contagious smile, hard work ethic, and he do anything that he could to help your life before he would help his.” Jamisen said.
Now, almost a year later, Lucas’ family is using his story to bring attention to overdose prevention. Brittany Colacino was Lucas’ girlfriend for a decade. She’s also the mother of two daughters they share together.
“He was always a very selfless person, he would give the shirt off of his back to anybody. Even in like, the rehabs and the halfway houses, he was always trying to help others in all times of his life, even in the lowest points,” Brittany said. “I know, Lucas would want some sort of change to happen.”
Brittany has started sharing her family’s journey with others on social media. That vulnerability, has helped others.
“I’ve had numerous people message me. People in my position who are not an addict, they don’t understand the addict mindset, or they just simply have never met an addict. I’ve had recovering addicts say, ‘hey, like, I appreciate your posts so much. In fact, I go back to it and think about my kids and how heartbroken they would be,’” Brittany said.
She said when she first lost Lucus, she didn’t want to talk about addiction. But now she has seen how important it is.
“I think it should be talked about. I think things should change when it comes to handling addicts and just how we approach it because they are people, they are brothers, sons, fathers, sisters, they are really people with families at home that they do care about,” Brittany said.
She’s also using Lucas’ story to shine light on the importance of being an organ donor. Even as an addict, Lucas’s organs were still able to help seven different people.
“They normally don’t donate their organs or have organs that don’t have so much damage that they can donate them. So I think he would be really grateful that his went to somebody else,” Brittany said. “It was one of those like selfless things that he would he would do.”
Donations have become even more important during the pandemic. New data shows organ transplants fell by 31% worldwide during the first wave of COVID-19.
To help raise awareness for overdose prevention and organ donations, Brittany and her daughters are making pins to deliver to the nurses who helped take care of Lucas.
Each pin is shaped as a Lilly after Lucas’ 8-year-old daughter Lillian. They are also going to have little lightsabers, something that has a special meaning for Lillian.
“She decided to make a connection between Star Wars and his addiction, and Star Wars was kind of like a family thing when he first started going through halfway houses and rehabs and we were trying to find a way to explain it to her because she was three and a half at the time,” Brittany said.
She added that Lillian started comparing her father to Darth Vader, who turns to the dark side to protect his wife and unborn children. In the end, he sacrifices himself for his son when he dies.
The pins are also purple and green for overdose and organ donation awareness. Brittany hopes the pins, when worn by nurses, will spark conversation about these important topics and Lucas’ story.
“He would be happy if even one life was changed by his story and one kid’s parent that’s an addict got to go home to them again,” Brittany said.
Jamisen said he hopes his friend’s story brings attention to the importance of people recognizing when their friends are hurting.
“I think it’s very important to to step in and or just to be able to recognize the signs that could impact someone’s life,” Jamisen said. “It’s a serious problem and I wish that more people would recognize what’s going on.”
Update on November 17th, 2021
Brittany and her daughters delivered the pins to the nurses at Newark-Wayne Community Hospital that took care of Lucas.