‘I am tired of being in pain.’ He started to cry. I was so oblivious to it. I thought he was better.’: Air Force husband overdoses on pain pills after suffering PTSD, ‘I’m too young to be a widow, I’m only 26’

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“December 6th, 2010, is the day I met Gavin. It was in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was with a young single adult group and we were going to Temple Square to look at the Christmas lights. I remember when I first laid eyes on Gavin. He was helping a mother get her stroller onto the Trax train and I can remember thinking to myself, ‘He’s cute and thoughtful.’ Shortly after that, one of our young single adult leaders introduced Gavin to me and my friends. We spent the whole night walking around Temple Square together talking. It was like I knew Gavin my whole life, I felt so comfortable talking to him. We were inseparable ever since that night.

Courtesy of Kelsey Patterson

We had hung out many times since that night, and a few days before Christmas, Gavin finally asked me out on a date. We then spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my family. It was a magical time, we had so much fun playing games, watching movies, and just enjoying each other’s company and making up silly nicknames for each other. I was his Batman and he was my Cinnamon Bear. After that we decided to be ‘exclusive’ and we spent every minute we could together.

Courtesy of Kelsey Patterson

Fast forward to July 20, 2011, Gavin asked me to marry him and of course I said yes! We were married on October 15, 2011, in Draper Utah.

Cheap Shots Photography
Cheap Shots Photography

Through our marriage we had lots of up and lots of downs. Gavin had PTSD, he served in the Air Force before we met. I knew he suffered from it while we were dating, but I didn’t realize until after we were married, just how bad it was.

Courtesy of Kelsey Patterson

He would wake up in a sweat and screaming almost every night from nightmares that he didn’t want to talk about. He would keep a lot of things in and didn’t want to talk about how he was feeling or what was going on in his mind. He was in constant pain from a past back injury. This would cause him to become angry and lose his temper and yell at me. He never did hurt me; he was always able to go in the other room when he felt like he was going to lose it. I finally convinced him to go try to get the help he needed. He was prescribed several prescription drugs to help with his PTSD and his nightmares, as well as going to see a therapist every week. Little did I know that the prescription drugs he was prescribed ,would later be what would cause his death.

Cheap Shots Photography

In 2015, things were going really well for us. Gavin had a job that he enjoyed, and I finally got a job after being unemployed for quite a while. We had plans to go to back to Disneyland where we went on our honeymoon. We were going back to celebrate our 4th anniversary. Unfortunately, we never made it back to Disneyland.

Courtesy of Kelsey Patterson

On September 24, 2015, Gavin came home from work complaining that he wasn’t feeling well. I brushed it off thinking that he had the flu, as a few days before he was complaining of not feeling well either. We had dinner together.

‘I want to go to bed and lay down,’ he said.

Next thing I know, he called my name and I went down to check on him.

‘I think I need to go to the hospital and get checked out,’ Gavin told me.

I started down the hallway with Gavin in front of me when he passed out. He was very weak and didn’t know what was going on. My mom called 911 for me while I talked to Gavin to keep him awake because all he wanted to do was fall asleep. The paramedics showed up and took him to the hospital and we followed. My mind raced the whole way to the hospital not understanding what was going on with Gavin and not knowing what would happen to him. When we got to the hospital there were several nurses and doctors surrounding him – and is when I knew that this was serious.

After the doctor’s asked Gavin several questions over and over again, he finally confessed to taking too many pills. Gavin overdosed on Tramadol (a pain reliever). When I asked Gavin why he took so many pills, he said, ‘I am tired of being in pain,’ and then he started to cry. My heart ached that he was in so much pain and that I was so oblivious to it. I thought that he was doing better and that things were just fine with him.

The doctors tried to pump his stomach to get rid of the pills he had taken, but it was too late. The pills had already entered his system. Gavin’s heart started to give out from the effects of the medication, but they were able to revive him several times. They then went and put a pacemaker in hoping it would help, but it didn’t. They had to intubate him and the little bit that he was conscious, he wanted to talk to me, but he couldn’t. Just when I felt like things were going to be okay, it drastically changed. Gavin’s heart stopped beating and there were so many nurses and doctors in his room performing CPR on him, trying to get his heart to start beating again. They decided they were going to perform open heart surgery right there in his room, as it was too risky to move him to another floor. We were escorted out into the waiting room. I don’t remember how long we waited, but I do know it felt like an eternity.

As soon as I saw two doctors walk out, I knew it wasn’t good news. They took me and my parents into another room.

‘We are sorry, but Gavin has passed away,’ they told me. ‘We tried all that we could, but his body was too weak.’

I remember looking at them both telling them, ‘I’m too young to be a widow, I’m only 26.’ Gavin passed away on September 25, 2015. I don’t remember much after being told that he was gone. Between planning his funeral and having friends and family over to visit, it was all a blur.

Courtesy of JoAnne Folkestad

After Gavin passed away, I had no clue what to do, he was my whole world and I was lost. I continued going to work and keep busy. I avoided staying home as much as I could because it was hard being home without him. It took me months to finally sleep in our bed again. For the longest time, I ignored my feelings and pushed them inside and just became numb. I just wanted Gavin back and hated that it wasn’t going to happen. I was tired of everyone telling me how ‘strong I was’ and how ‘they don’t know how I do it.’ I didn’t feel strong, I felt weak.

As time went on, I finally started dealing with my feelings and went to therapy for a while. I started to realize I was stronger than I gave myself credit for and that I could get through this!

About a year after Gavin passed away, I decided I wanted to start dating again. I had a few friends set me up, and while it was fun, I still noticed I was comparing them to Gavin. I was also worried they wouldn’t want to continue to date me once they knew I was a widow, so I backtracked. I decided I wasn’t quite ready to date.

In 2018, I finally came around. Reluctantly, I decided to try online dating. I downloaded several dating apps and gave it a try. I talked to quite a few guys, but nothing came of it, especially when they found out I was a widow, they didn’t want anything to do with me.

Then one day I came across James’ picture. I thought he was cute, but I just ignored it and continued looking. Well after about the 4th time of coming across his picture, I decided to ‘like’ it, and what do you know? We matched! I decided to just go for it – I messaged him first. I was up front with him about being a widow and he was very sweet about it.

‘I’m okay with that,’ he replied.

We messaged back and forth for a while and finally went on a date in July 2018. We hit it off right away and I felt so comfortable around him, a feeling I hadn’t felt since Gavin. We moved pretty quickly in our relationship, both meeting each other’s families the next day after our date. We talked about marriage pretty early on in our relationship and spent every minute we could together.

Courtesy of Kelsey Patterson
Courtesy of Kelsey Patterson

On December 24, 2018, James asked me to marry him! I of course said yes!

Courtesy of Kelsey Patterson
Benjamin Lohman Photography

On June 7th, 2019, James and I got married. It was a magical day filled with lots of love with family and friends, family and friends that have been with me through it all – from losing Gavin, to having bad days, and to finding love again with James. James is a sweet, kind, loving, and patient man. He understands that there are still days where I struggle and miss Gavin, and he is there for me on those days, helping me however he can.

Benjamin Lohman Photography
Benjamin Lohman Photography

I am not sure why I am going through this journey in life, but it has taught me to be more sympathetic to those around me, to not take things for granted, to tell your loved ones that you love them, even if you are mad at them. Don’t take things for granted because you don’t know when you will lose what is most important to you.”

Benjamin Lohman Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kelsey Patterson of Magna, Utah. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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