Aimee Dunkle will tell her story to anyone who will listen — it's a story filled with the heartache of a mother who lost her 20-year-old son, Ben, to a heroin overdose.
"The big thing was the shock that somebody like him could die," she said. "They just didn't expect it."
Ben, a surf instructor who grew up in Orange County, was 50 days sober until the day he got out of recovery and started using drugs again.
Eight days later, he was dead.
Now, Aimee's wondering what would have happened if Ben had a second chance.
She is one of the two mothers behind the Solace Foundation of Orange County, which is committed to reducing the number of opioid-related deaths by campaigning to make naloxone, an overdose-reversal drug, widely available.
Aimee goes around to drug treatment facilities and trains lay people how to administer naloxone. She's also training people who are homeless in the Santa Ana Civic Center, where she claims 48 drug users have been saved.
"The more we do it, the more connections we make," she said.
Ernalyn Montgomery was the nurse who oversaw Ben in his struggle to recovery.
"I get the chills just thinking about how we connected," she said. "I can't even describe the words. His death really affected me."
Franc Freeman was in treatment for heroin addiction with Ben when he died.
"I would do heroin no matter what. I even broke my own hand to get painkillers," Freeman said. "So when I was in treatment, my disease took me to really gnarly places."
Now, Freeman is one of the 200 drug counselors being trained to use naloxone at the Solid Landings Behavioral Health center in Costa Mesa.
"I think it's a gift and a joy that she's doing this for her son's memory and legacy in her son's honor, and it is saving lives," she said.
The same drug was used in a pilot program with the Orange County Sheriff's Department and was successful five out of the six times it was administered, said police lieutenant Ken Burmood. Naloxone may soon be used throughout the county.
"We're giving them a tool to live. We're just giving them a tool to survive," Dunkle said.
Freeman said it's a message of a second chance.
"You know even if you overdose you can be brought back. You can be given another chance to turn it around," she said.
For more information visit the Solace Foundation of Orange County website.