Father talks about how synthetic substance nearly killed his son.

May 21, 2015
"Tim" in the hospital bed at Helen Devos Children's Hospital.

“Tim” in the hospital bed at Helen Devos Children’s Hospital.

Editor’s note: Due to the sensitivity of this topic, the subject interviewed has asked us to not use his name or his son’s name in our story. For that reason we have changed their names and blurred his face in the photo. While many people are already aware of their true identities we ask that you respect their wishes when/if commenting on social media.

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.

SCOTTVILLE — “Mike” was at work when he got the phone call from his mother that his son, “Tim”, had had a seizure at school and was taken to the hospital. The seizure, Mike soon found out, was caused as a result of his 15-year-old son inhaled a synthetic substance known as Darth Vapor. Mike went directly to the hospital and found his son already on life support.

“The first seizure happened about 20 minutes after he took it,” Mike said. “It was a five to six minute seizure. Then he had another seizure in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Paramedics also had to tube him because he stopped breathing.”

Mike said a fire department medical first responder happened to be at Mason County Central High School, which he says probably contributed to Tim being alive today.

“We were real lucky there was a first responder at the school. Tim got assistance quickly.”

Mike works near the hospital and went to the emergency department.

“His body was… he just wasn’t there. It wasn’t my son. He looked dead,” Mike said. “I touched him and there was nothing there. Absolutely nothing. He was on this machine that was breathing for him. The doctor said he didn’t know how long Tim would be like this.”

An Aeromed air ambulance was called in from Grand Rapids and Tim was taken to Helen Devos Children’s Hospital.

“The helicopter crew was really professional. I remember that,” Mike said. “I don’t remember driving to Grand Rapids. I honestly don’t know how I got there safely. I remember the helicopter pilot called me when they got there, about 25 minutes after leaving Ludington, and he gave me an update on Tim’s condition.”

When Mike got to the hospital he found his son still on life support.

“I just sat there and stared at him. He was unconscious for eight hours and then he started coming around. He couldn’t talk to us because he still had to have a tube in his throat to help him breath. It was a huge relief, though, to see him some what awake.”

Mike said that Tim would stop breathing when he fell asleep, so the tube had to remain for several more hours.

“There were just tubes and wires connected to him. I was so scared. I’ve never been so scared in my whole life. It was just horrible.”

Mike describes his son as a typical kid. He’s a high school freshman who is social and has many friends. He enjoys hunting and fishing.

“He’s got friends, but this particular guy who gave him the Darth Vapor was not someone who he normally hangs out with, I’ve been told,” Mike said. Officials have not disclosed to Mike who gave his son the substance and Tim doesn’t remember.

“I’m not sure I really want to know who it was,” Mike said. “I’m not really sure how I would react if I knew.”

Mike said that Tim said he has never tried synthetic substances before. He has experimented with marijuana in the past and when Mike found out about it he started testing his son on a regular basis.

“You have to protect your children,” Mike said. “I know they think they are entitled to privacy, but we are the parents and we have to keep them safe, that’s more important than their privacy.”

Mike said parents need to be aware of the dangers of their children experimenting with any type of substance. “This stuff is just bad. Nobody seems to really know what’s in it and more kids are trying it. I just don’t understand what is attracting the kids to this stuff. Any type of drug is bad, but this stuff is putting our kids in the hospital. What is attractive about that?”

In Mason County, there have been five recent cases of teenagers being hospitalized due to synthetic substances. The substance is being ingested either directly or through e-cigarettes. 

Mason County law enforcement and medical officials have recently been telling the public about the potential dangers of the substances. See related story here.

“The thing is, this stuff isn’t illegal,” Mike said. It’s illegal for teens to buy it because they are minors and many of the substances contain nicotine. “This is what really makes it frustrating. There’s nothing the police can do about it right now. But, there is something the stores that are selling this stuff can do. They can be responsible members of our community and stop selling it. Parents need to make these businesses aware that they aren’t going to put up with this in our community.”

As for Tim, Mike said he remembers little about the day he inhaled the Darth Vapor substance.

“He said he doesn’t really remember anything. But, I am thankful that he has pretty much returned to normal. Doctors have him restricted for the next six months. He can’t be near water by himself. He can’t operate any type of machinery like a lawn mower. Basically he has grounded himself for the next six months, but thankfully he’s alive. That’s what matters.”

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