October 18, 2018

Winnipeg
9° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Family tragedy sheds light on fentanyl use in Winnipeg

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/8/2015 (1157 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

More than a year after his son’s fatal drug overdose, John Kolb drapes burgundy fabric over a corkboard collage, concealing family photos that are still too painful for his wife to see.

Snapshots of Jessie Last-Kolb’s childhood fishing trips, his Disneyland vacation antics and his more recent powerlifting prowess offer a glimpse into a good-natured, sensitive young man who visited his parents daily and pitched in for the family masonry business, buying his own house at 18 and starting his own life.

It’s his death that his family hopes will make a difference now. In the wake of another suspected fentanyl-laced fatal overdose in Winnipeg last weekend and increasing use of the extremely potent, highly addictive painkiller, John and his wife Arlene Last-Kolb have found themselves thrust into an advising role, being called upon by parents of fentanyl users to offer wisdom before more people die. They are calling for more effective communication between police and medical professionals about the dangers of the drug that claimed the life of their son.

“He was a good boy, and he didn’t go out expecting to die. And I don’t think anybody goes out and would take something knowing that it could kill them. So I think something needs to be done because it can happen to anybody,” Arlene said.

Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.

Join free for 60 days

After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Join free for 60 days

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 60 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/8/2015 (1157 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Arlene Last-Kolb wears her sons Jessie Last-Kolb jewelry everyday. He died at 24 years to a fentanyl overdose in July 2014. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press)

Arlene Last-Kolb wears her sons Jessie Last-Kolb jewelry everyday. He died at 24 years to a fentanyl overdose in July 2014. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press)

More than a year after his son’s fatal drug overdose, John Kolb drapes burgundy fabric over a corkboard collage, concealing family photos that are still too painful for his wife to see.

Snapshots of Jessie Last-Kolb’s childhood fishing trips, his Disneyland vacation antics and his more recent powerlifting prowess offer a glimpse into a good-natured, sensitive young man who visited his parents daily and pitched in for the family masonry business, buying his own house at 18 and starting his own life.

It’s his death that his family hopes will make a difference now. In the wake of another suspected fentanyl-laced fatal overdose in Winnipeg last weekend and increasing use of the extremely potent, highly addictive painkiller, John and his wife Arlene Last-Kolb have found themselves thrust into an advising role, being called upon by parents of fentanyl users to offer wisdom before more people die. They are calling for more effective communication between police and medical professionals about the dangers of the drug that claimed the life of their son.

"He was a good boy, and he didn’t go out expecting to die. And I don’t think anybody goes out and would take something knowing that it could kill them. So I think something needs to be done because it can happen to anybody," Arlene said.

"People aren’t going to just stop doing drugs because fentanyl’s out there," she added. This will keep happening."

Jessie, 24, died of a fentanyl overdose on July 18, 2014. His parents got the call from Grace Hospital at 1:30 a.m., and their lives haven’t been the same since. John dealt with stress-related heart trouble and now attends a weekly support group for parents who have lost children. Arlene got a new tattoo in Jessie’s memory and wears a necklace of pendants that belonged to him – a St. Christopher medal and two silver crosses that became entangled the first time she put them on. They both look for signs like that now, little things that help them deal with their grief. Their grief is still fresh and on display. A blue urn filled with Jessie’s ashes sits on a hutch in the couple’s living room, surrounded by remnants of him: his truck keys, his favourite white musk cologne, Oh Henry! chocolate bars, paintings and figurines dedicated by family and friends.

John Kolb lost his son Jessie Last-Kolb, 24 years to a Fentanyl overdose in July 2014. He stands by photo mural in his home (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press)

They don’t think they could bear reading the police report from their son’s last night — what they know already is hard enough.

Jessie was taken to hospital after being found unconscious in a house with a group of acquaintances. An autopsy report that arrived almost three months later revealed he had died from an overdose of fentanyl — an opiate much more powerful than morphine or heroin that is typically used in patch form to treat severe, chronic pain. His parents now believe Jessie took the drug unknowingly.

"We just thought it was another drug. We had no idea what it really was," John said.

"But it just kept coming up, the word fentanyl. I would be watching TV in the morning and it’s just coming up all the time now," Arlene added.

"So when I see or hear it, it makes me cry because I have to think about my son," she said. "It makes me sad that all these people are dying from fentanyl. It’s horrible. And now we’re really questioning whether our son even knew what he was taking that night."

After Jessie suffered a powerlifting injury a couple of years ago — an inattentive spotter allowed a 340-pound weight to fall on his chest — "things just went downhill," his mother said. He was prescribed the potent painkiller percocet. He later overdosed on percocet and was briefly prescribed fentanyl for resulting pain. His parents knew he was struggling and brought him to see a psychiatrist, but they believed he was clean before his death.

Jessie Last-Kolb. (Family photo)

Jessie Last-Kolb. (Family photo)

They said police didn’t follow up with them to track down the source of the lethal drugs and some medical professionals were coarse about the frequency of drug overdoses. Since Jessie’s death, the couple has known at least three young people who have died of fentanyl overdoses and has been asked for advice from parents of at least one current user.

John sat down with one young man at his father’s request and tried to drive home the dangers of the drug, which is highly toxic and yet so cheap that it’s often cut into other drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana.

"Towards the end, I just said, ‘if you don’t stop, your parents will get one of these.’ And I brought out the death certificate for Jessie."

Still, John doesn’t think he got through to him.

When they heard police suspected the drug in a pair of recent overdoses that killed one man and sent another to hospital, they knew they had to speak out.

"Winnipeg is so small that I believe there is a connection with all of this, and I can’t really understand why they can’t figure it out," Arlene said. "I would encourage anybody that knows anybody that’s had anything to do with fentanyl to come forward so that they can really see what a problem it is. Maybe we can make a difference, even if it’s just one person that doesn’t have to go through what we’re going through."

katie.may@freepress.mb.ca

Katie May

Katie May
Justice reporter

Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.

Read full biography

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us