(WSVN) - It is as close as they might ever get to their day in court. People whose lives were ripped apart by the opioid epidemic unleashed decades of frustration, heartbreak and anger at the infamous family they blame for their pain. As 7’s Karen Hensel reports, they are still “Dying for Payback.”
Caller: “I need an ambulance. My son’s not breathing.”
It was the worst moment a mother could imagine.
Dispatcher: “He’s blue?”
Caller: “He’s white.”
The nightmare of the nation’s opioid crisis, captured in a frantic 911 call on Jan. 14, 2009.
Caller: “Oh, God, he’s dead!”
Dispatcher: “Ma’am, I need you to calm down. How old is he? Ma’am?”
Caller: “He’s 20!”
At the time, highly addictive prescription pain pills flowed like water, and South Florida was ground zero.
Because of Florida’s infamous history with “pill mills,” Kristy and Bill Nelson flew from Indiana to South Florida. They wanted to share the story of their son Bryan, who died from an overdose.
Kristy Nelson: “Straight-A student in college, loved golfing.”
Kristy is the mom on that gut-wrenching 911 call. Bill is a criminal court judge in Indianapolis.
Kristy Nelson: “I mean, people flooded Florida because they could get OxyContin, and Purdue Pharma saw an opening here years ago.”
Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, is owned by the billionaire Sackler family. The company is blamed for igniting the U.S. opioid epidemic linked to more than 618,000 overdose deaths.
Bryan was one of them.
Kristy Nelson: “I tried to breathe life back into him. It didn’t work.”
Kristy and Bill wanted the Sackler family, who they blame for Bryan’s death, to hear their family’s story, and unlike thousands who will never get that chance, last week, the couple was among a group of just 26 who directly addressed the Sacklers.
When it was Kristy’s turn to talk, she started by playing that 911 call.
Caller: “Oh, my God! Bryan! Bryan!”
Kristy Nelson: “They were not prepared for it. I’m glad they got to hear it.”
As part of Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy case, victims spoke to members of the Sackler family, including former company chairman and president Richard.
Kristy Nelson: “I told Richard, ‘I hope God never has mercy on your soul, and I think you’re an SOB.'”
Kristy also turned Richard Sackler’s own words against him, citing a 2001 email where he referred to drug addicts as “scum of the earth.”
Kristy Nelson: “He called my son ‘scum of the earth,’ and I just thought, ‘Oh, here’s my opportunity. Let him know who the real scum is.'”
As part of a massive settlement, the Sackler family will pay $6 billion, with most of the money going to states but just a fraction to victims’ families.
Bill Nelson: “To say my son’s life is worth $3,500 is nothing but an insult. There isn’t a perfect settlement, because you can’t put a dollar value on a human life.”
Kristy Nelson: “It’s my only child. I miss hearing the word ‘mom.'”
Kristy still keeps a birthday card Bryan gave her, just six hours before he took his last breath. He died on her birthday.
The Sackler family said, while they acted “lawfully,” they “sincerely regret” that OxyContin became part of the opioid crisis.
SACKLER FAMILY STATEMENT:
“The Sackler families are pleased to have reached a settlement with additional states that will allow very substantial additional resources to reach people and communities in need. The families have consistently affirmed that settlement is by far the best way to help solve a serious and complex public health crisis. While the families have acted lawfully in all respects, they sincerely regret that OxyContin, a prescription medicine that continues to help people suffering from chronic pain, unexpectedly became part of an opioid crisis that has brought grief and loss to far too many families and communities.”
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