A story looking at the personal loss after a fentanyl overdose
By Max Winkelman
An Interlakes mom is mourning her son after he died to a fentanyl overdose.
“He was very charismatic, very handsome, extremely talented musician, so funny. He led this normal life,” says Joanne Connelly of her son, Adam James Shyshka. “He was just a big kid.”
James was 39 years old and passed away unexpectedly at the end of March.
“I know my son very well. He was not only my son but also my best friend. He wasn’t big time into drugs so this was a really odd thing for it to happen.”
James died on March 24 to a fentanyl overdose in Burnaby and his death was accidental, according to the coroner’s report which was released last week. A piece of burnt foil, pipe, lighter and a small amount of marijuana were found near or on him.
Connelly says there was no heroin, no cocaine, no crack, nothing like that on him, but that it was a deadly amount of fentanyl.
About two years ago, things suddenly went downhill for James, who lost his job and his apartment, says Connelly.
According to the coroner’s report, “Family believe that his illicit substance use began in 2016 and quickly impacted his life. In the period immediately prior to his death, Mr. Shyshka experienced barriers to obtaining secure housing and was street entrenched.”
James came and lived with Connelly for a bit in the Interlakes area but ultimately ended up on the street in the Lower Mainland, she says.
“He loved it up here. He was supposed to be up here for the May long weekend but he didn’t make it. He didn’t make it.”
Connelly says she and her family are devastated.
“He really was a normal person.”
James had a real love for the outdoors, as seen in the videos and pictures Connelly has of him, but James also had some mental health issues and got in some fights, she says.
She went with him to mental health, to the doctor and Workplace BC and says that while they open doors, what they offer isn’t enough to help people get off the street. She also says that the court system isn’t doing enough about the opioid crisis. Those making the drugs are murdering people but are getting off with a slap on the wrist, she says.
For Connelly, it’s far from the first time having to deal with loss. Her brother was beaten to death 29 years ago in a case of mistaken identity, her sister died of a heart attack and she’s lost two daughters to terminal illness, she says.
“When you lose one suddenly, it’s an absolute shock.
“It is different,” she says. “When my first daughter died, she was 14 months old, Hailey, yeah I was devastated but I had 39 years with this son. So yeah, it’s different. You have 39 years of memories and that’s the hard thing.”
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