‘My Son Did Not Die for Nothing’: Florida Moms Combat Fentanyl Poisoning

People who lost relatives to a drug overdose sit among imitation graves set up by the Trai

Three Florida mothers are taking a stand to inform the public about the dangers of fentanyl after losing their children to the deadly drug.

Rhonda Willis lost her 27-year-old son, Zachary Willis, in 2022.

“Toxicology came back with the Oxy with the fentanyl, and he had enough fentanyl in his system to kill 20 people,” she told Tampa’s News Channel 8. 

According to the heartbroken mother, knowing that she “can never hug him again, or hold him again, or tell him I love him, or hear his voice” is a “parent’s worst nightmare.”

Over 3,000 individuals died from fentanyl poisoning in Florida from January to June 2022, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement found.

The city of St. Petersburg suffered the most fentanyl deaths with 374. 

A camera crew has recently been documenting the tragedies around Tampa, which came in fourth place at 267 fentanyl deaths.

Heidi Kettles was just 27 when she passed away after using the intense opioid in 2020.

“In the middle of the night she died, and it was fentanyl and cocaine,” said her mother, Julie Kettles.

Tammy Plakstis also lost her son, Dylan Plakstis, in 2020. 

“They Narcan’d him three times and they were able to get a heartbeat, but he ended up being brain dead,” she told the local outlet.

While the three mothers did not know each other prior to their respective interviews, their losses and newfound activism bring them together on one mission: saving lives.

“My sorrow, my pain will never be over,” said Kettles. “Has it eased some? Yes. I also lead a grief support group, so by helping others and having that calling to do that, it helps me.”

The grieving moms put up billboards and speak at public events in addition to participating in different groups.

According to Willis, “The more awareness that we can get out, then the more lives that can be saved.”

“The goal is to not have other parents go through what I have experienced, it is a very rough road,” she added.
Plakstis said she works with the anti-drug group Rachel’s Angels to put up awareness billboards and distribute Narcan.

“If this whole raising awareness can just save one, just one life, then my son did not have to die for nothing,” Willis added.


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