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 judgemental, 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.

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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Old English design elements can be seen in the sign of the Summerland Farm and Garden Centre in 1993. The guidelines are no longer in place, but some downtown businesses still show aspects of the days when Summerland had a theme in place. This photo was taken by Summerland photographer Dan Dorotich. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Summerland’s Old English theme has been abandoned

From the 1980s until the early 2000s, Summerland had design guidelines in its downtown

Penticton bylaw officers tore down a “pretty significantly sized” homeless camp underneath the bridge near Riverside Drive Friday, April 16 morning. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton bylaw tears down ‘significantly sized’ homeless camp under bridge

Many residents had made complaints about the camp before it was torn down

Through their Simple Generosity campaign, Valley First has pledged to donate $1 million of community support to British Columbia communities in 2021. (Contributed)
Valley First rewarding Penticton families with innovative way to thrive together

Participants with ‘inspiring ideas’ will receive a surprise for their family, valued at up to $2,500

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Ryan Upson’s first BCHL hat-trick propelled the Vees to a 7-1 stomping of the Cranbrook Bucks Thursday April 16) night to improve their record to 7-1-0-0 in this abbreviated pod season. (Cherie Morgan/Cherie Morgan Photography)
Pentiton Vees bounce back with big win over Bucks

Vees score five in under five minutes, win 7-1 over Cranbrook

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

Photos of Vancouver Canucks players are pictured outside the closed box office of Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver Thursday, April 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks games against Leafs postponed as team returns from COVID-19

The team has had 11 games postponed since an outbreak late last month

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Ford F-350s have been targeted in the North Okanagan by auto thieves since February 2021, Vernon North Okanagan RCMP data shows. (Gene J. Puskar - The Canadian Press/AP file)
Auto thieves target older Ford F-350s in Vernon: RCMP

Vernon Mounties remind all motorists no vehicle is immune to auto crime

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Coldstream students took over the Your Letters page in the April 9, 2021, edition of the Vernon Morning Star to offer advice to adults about COVID-19. Interior Health took notice and offered their praise. (Vernon Morning Star)
‘We can get rid of COVID together’: B.C. kids share heartwarming advice

Grade 2 and 3 classes from a North Okanagan elementary took over Letters page of this Black Press newspaper

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Most Read