Lisa Jilg is pictured at her store with signs requesting the donation of items for those struggling with mental health challenges, and those experiencing homelessness. (Contributed)

Lisa Jilg is pictured at her store with signs requesting the donation of items for those struggling with mental health challenges, and those experiencing homelessness. (Contributed)

‘He just wanted to be accepted’: Okanagan mother opens up about son’s fatal overdose

Judgment toward those with mental health challenges needs to stop, says West Kelowna mother

It’s been 503 days since Lisa Jilg said goodbye to her son Travis Thacker, but time, as well as the judgment from others, has done little to soothe the pain.

For the West Kelowna mother, it’s how her son went that remains the toughest part.

‘So much fighting just to lose him’

When Thacker turned 21, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. However, it took years for their family to find him the right medication. While living at home, he would do well. However, Jilg explained, when he visited with his friends, he would sometimes dabble in drugs.

“Ten months before I lost my son … and he overdosed, and I was out of town. I found him, and I was able to bring him back to life,” said the mother.

Thacker was on life support for three weeks, during which time some recommended Jilg take him off and let him go. Miraculously, he came out of it “perfect” with no lasting side effects.

Jilg and her family moved to West Kelowna to pursue a business opportunity, launching what is now Got Phones N’ Repairs Ltd.

Four days after arriving in the Okanagan, 29-year-old Thacker visited a friend, and shortly after, Jilg received a call saying her son had overdosed again. The two had bought cocaine together, which was laced with fentanyl.

“When I went to the hospital, I think I was just in shock, but I think I knew that it was different this time. They kept telling me that there was too much brain damage for him to come out of this one.”

After three days in the hospital, Jilg took her son off life support. Thacker died on Oct. 17, 2019, with his mother at his side.

“He was my sidekick… he was my soul mate. So much fighting just to lose him.”

West Kelowna’s Travis Thacker died of an overdose on October 17, 2019. (Contributed)

West Kelowna’s Travis Thacker died of an overdose on October 17, 2019. (Contributed)

Despite having video footage of the man who sold them the laced drugs, Jilg said police told her an investigation was impossible due to a lack of evidence.

Deaths like this are happening in B.C. at an alarming rate. On March 2, a report published shows there were 165 fatal overdoses in the first month of 2021.

‘They feel very alone when they are judged’

When people find out how her son died, some are judgmental, Jilg says. This is a stigma she’s hoping to extinguish — alongside terms such as ‘junkies.’

Jilg hopes the public can find empathy for those who struggle with mental health challenges.

“People don’t understand that these are humans too and that they have parents that are grieving their loss… the biggest part I hate is that they say drugs are a choice. And what they don’t realize is that 90 per cent of these people deal with a mental health issue. And if they’re not getting the proper care through mental health, then this is going to happen.

“Drugs are inevitable. They want to feel comfortable, they want to feel like themselves again, and I know that was my son’s issue… They feel very alone when they are judged the way that they are, and it’s a cause for more drugs.”

She described her late son as brilliant and selfless, with the biggest heart.

“No matter what issues he had going on, laughter was his cure. He just wanted everybody to laugh and be happy. He just wanted to be accepted. That’s all he wanted.”

After losing Thacker in 2019, Jilg went straight back to work, trying to keep her mind busy. It was only after talking with a woman who walked into her store that Jilg reached out to Moms Stop The Harm. There, she found support through women who had similar experiences.

A regular volunteer with Moms Stop The Harm, Jilg joins many other mothers in the fight to decriminalize drugs. All mothers in the group have lost children to a fentanyl overdose or have children who currently use.

The West Kelowna woman is trying her best to turn this tragic event into something positive and prevent other parents from going through what she did.

At her business, she collects donations from customers in the form of clothing and money, which helps fund mental health support groups. During the winter, she drives around town looking for cold people in need of a warm jacket or toque.

To contribute, get in touch with Jilg at her store, Got Phones N’ Repairs Ltd. Visit Momsstoptheharm.com to donate, or for more info.

A painting of Lisa Jilg and her son, Travis Thacker. Thacker died of an overdose on October 17, 2019. (Contributed)

A painting of Lisa Jilg and her son, Travis Thacker. Thacker died of an overdose on October 17, 2019. (Contributed)

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: phil.mclachlan@kelownacapnews.com


 

@newspaperphil
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Drugsopioid epidemic

Just Posted

A man and woman, both 33 and from Kelowna, were arrested on Postill Lake Forest Service Road in possession of two stolen vehicles Friday, May 14, 2021. (File photo)
Kelowna duo arrested with stolen vehicles after ‘brief’ bicycle getaway attempt

A man and a woman were arrested on a forest service road on numerous pending charges

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

People in Kelowna’s City Park on May 18, 2020. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Search crews looking for missing diver in Okanagan Lake near Kelowna’s City Park

At around 2:50 p.m., RCMP received reports of a diver missing.

The future of the Okanagan Lake watershed land use will be subject of a new study supported by a $300,000 grant from the Vancouver Foundation. (Contributed)
Grant to help develop Okanagan Lake protection strategy

Study receives $300,000 grant from the Vancouver Foundation.

COVID-19 virus. (Black Press Media file)
COVID-19 outbreak declared over at Kelowna retirement home

The outbreak at Sandalwood Retirement Resort was initially announced by Interior Health on April 23

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

KCR Migrant Support Worker, Javier, had an exciting day escorting his son Ian with him during ‘Take your Child to Work Day’!
KCR: Volunteering is being part of a whole

KCR Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

The BC Conservation Officer Service (COS) handed out fines to two anglers on Shuswap Lake who were both casting more than one line, in violation of provincial regulations, Saturday, May 15, 2021. (COS photo)
Conservation officers snag Shuswap anglers for unlawful fishing

Two anglers were given $150 fines for casting two lines at once, against provincial regulations

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Lynda Saundry, born 1961, is charged with the murder of North Okanagan resident Barry Jones in July 2020. Saundry will appear in Vernon court May 17, 2021, to fix a date for a preliminary inquiry. (Facebook public photo)
North Okanagan murder suspect to be tried by judge and jury

Lynda Saundry is charged with the first-degree murder of Barry Jones in July 2020

Vernon Search and Rescue’s Legacy vessel is returning to Okanagan Lake for boating season, the society said Friday, May 14, 2021. (VSAR photo)
Vernon Search and Rescue vessel returns to Okanagan Lake

VSAR’s Legacy is back with a fresh coat of paint and some other upgrades

Most Read