The opioid epidemic in America today is no secret to anyone, especially not the journalists who report about the crisis and the massive number of people who die from an opioid overdose each year. But for one reporter, Angela Kennecke of KELO in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the opioid crisis hit painfully close to home. Last May, Kennecke lost her 21-year-old daughter, Emily, to an opioid overdose. The official cause of death was fentanyl poisoning.
After taking some time to grieve her loss, Kennecke decided she had to tell her daughter’s story, like she’s asked so many other parents to do as a reporter. If she can keep just one parent from suffering through the loss of their own child because she spoke up, she says, it will be worth it. In both video and writing on her TV station and their website, Kennecke has told of Emily’s life and death, and advocated to lessen the stigma around opioid addiction. In an essay on KELO’s website, Kennecke talks about having such a public loss:
“Perhaps it’s no surprise since her birth was such a public thing because I’m in the public eye that her death is now such a public thing too. I have to embrace that. I really can’t hide from that. So, I think it’s best if I just tell my story and let everyone out there know what happened to my daughter. Because I really believe it could happen to anyone’s daughter. It can happen in anyone’s family. And it starts with addiction.”
Kennecke states that she knew something was off with her daughter, who at age 21 no longer lived with the family. Eventually, Kennecke figured out that her daughter was using drugs, but didn’t know what kind. She and her family hired an interventionist to stage and intervention to get her into treatment. Kennecke tells what happened next in her essay:
“We met on a Saturday and the intervention was planned for the following Saturday, and my daughter died on a Wednesday. We didn’t get that chance. We didn’t get that chance to get her into real treatment, to get her real help. And then when I found out what she’d been doing–the cause–it was unbelievable to me. The fact that my daughter would be using heroin and needles—my beautiful daughter who was very privileged; had every opportunity in life to have a great life–had gone down this road. It was shocking to me.”
Emily died of an opioid overdose four days before her family’s planned intervention.
Kennecke says that although she communicates for a living and considers herself a “wordsmith,” she cannot find words to adequately describe the loss her family has suffered.
“There is nothing that can even come close to describe the grief and the sorrow, the pain. And all of the loss–what she could have been–what if?”
You can feel her grief as she shares her story on video for her news station: