Personal Testimony of
Old Hickory, TN
National Inhalants & Poisons
Awareness Week Kick-Off
March 15, 2001
My husband and I have become well educated on the dangers of inhalants. Our
education began very abruptly on June 20, 1996 when we lost our son to this
silent epidemic. Our son, Ricky, huffed Freon from our home air-conditioning
unit and died instantly from Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome.
We're here this morning to share our story with one objective in mind. We
feel we must warn other parents of the dangers of inhalants and hopefully spare
another family from dealing with the nightmare of losing a precious child.
Ricky was an outgoing sixteen year old. He was a typical teenager in many
ways. He loved listening to music, talking with his friends on the phone, and
sports. In fact, he had a passion for baseball, since the age of four when the
bat was still bigger than he was! Ricky had been a Christian since he was 7
years old and he was involved in our church and the church youth group.
He had just completed his sophomore year at his Christian high school. He
succeeded both academically and athletically. In fact, his reputation as a
left-handed, all-state pitcher on his school's baseball team had already brought
him to the attention of both university and professional scouts.
The two Ricky's, father and son, often dreamed together -as fathers and sons
do - of what the future might hold for him one day in the world of sports.
We were actively involved in every facet of our children's lives. To say we
absolutely adored our children, Stephanie our oldest and Ricky, would not be an
understatement. Our home was a place where each person was loved and respected.
A place where we laughed together, much more than we ever cried. But, we never
dreamed in a million years of the tears that lay ahead.
We always talked openly with our children about anything and everything. We
warned Ricky about the dangerous consequences of drugs and alcohol. We made it a
priority to try to prepare our kids for temptations they could be faced with.
But, we never, one single time, warned Ricky about the dangers of huffing. Why?
Because we had never heard of huffing before Ricky died. How many times since
have we said, "How we only wish we had known to warn him."
So, on June 20, 1996 my husband came home from work to find his best friend,
our precious, only son…dead in his own room.
Our son didn't know he had invited a killer into our home that day. He never
meant to hurt anyone, let alone himself. Harmless fun. This is how inhalants
come disguised. Inhalants aren't drugs, they aren't illegal…Harmless
Since he had only recently been introduced to this fad, Ricky didn't show the
typical warning signs associated with huffing. We didn't have the luxury of
Huffing has been called the cocaine of the 90's but it is still alive and
well today. When you think that more than 441,000 kids age 12-17 use inhalants
each month I'm afraid this is much, much more than a passing fad. This is a
Inhalants are as close as your own kitchen sink. More than 1,000 common,
useful, and legal household products can be used to get high.
Friends, there's a killer in your house right now!
But, as already mentioned this morning, education is the key to preventing
inhalant abuse. Every year kids die from inhalant use, but still many parents
and educators remain in the dark about this silent epidemic, just as we
After almost 5 years we are still explaining to countless number of parents
how our son died. When we're asked, "How many children do you have?"
We answer, "We have two children, one has already gone to be with the
Lord." They will say, "Oh, what happened, how did he die?" We
tell them, "He died huffing." Then they ask, "Huffing, what is
I don't know how many people we've educated on the dangers of inhalants in
the last five years. I never pass up the opportunity to tell them about my son
and tell them how he died.
You see, so many parents have never heard of huffing so they too have never
warned their children about the dangers of inhalants. And they too could be
caught off-guard just as we were.
Since Ricky's death, year after year, we hear from parents all across the
United States and continue reading the tragic headlines with stories, many
times, identical to ours. Parents left dealing with the loss of a child to a
killer they had never even heard of. A good kid, a loving home, and no warning
signs. Another mama cries, "I didn't know to warn him, I didn't know to
Young people don't realize that using any inhalant is like playing Russian
roulette. You can die the 1st, the 10th, or even the 100th time you use.
More than 1,000 people came to Ricky's funeral to pay their respects and
offer support. My husband and I looked at every teenager and said, "Don't
let this happen to you." Parent after parent said the same thing,
"We've never heard of huffing either."
Our hope and our prayer is to fight this killer that took our son's
life and continues taking other precious lives. We hope to spare another family,
maybe your family, from this nightmare.
How many lives must be lost?
This is our plea to all parents:
- Please heed our warning!
- You cannot assume your child would not experiment with inhalants. No
parent has that luxury.
- You must become educated on the dangers of inhalants, learn the facts,
know the statistics, before your child becomes a statistic.
- Talk with your kids before it's too late.
Before I left Nashville I received a call from a lady in east Tennessee. She
called our home, she was crying and she asked me if I would do her a favor. She
asked me if I would take a message to Washington for her.
She began telling me about her little 13-year old son who became addicted to
huffing paint. She told me how for seven long years, she and her husband tried
desperately to get help for him, taking him from one facility to another. Her
son knew he needed help and he knew he couldn't kick this addiction on his own.
The hospitals released him each time, and there was no help to be found for him
anywhere. Finally, two years ago her son took his own life. The mother pleaded
with me over the phone to share her message in Washington today about the need
for treatment facilities that are educated on inhalant abusers and that are
equipped to help people like her own son. I promised her I would.
Well, you never expect to have to bury a health 16-year old. Ricky was so
full of life, ambition, dreams, and goals and they were all wiped out because of
one error in judgment, one wrong choice.
This careless act not only ended his life but also forever changed the lives
of those who loved him most.
Ricky was a son, a grandson, a brother, a cousin, a nephew, he was somebody's
classmate, and he was somebody's best friend.
We face every day without our son. Every Christmas, every Father's Day, every
Mother's Day, someone is missing….Missing, but never forgotten.
Next month, April 24, Ricky would have turned 21 years old. Only God knows
the potential that was snuffed out that summer afternoon almost 5 years ago.