Aunt’s heartbroken warning after teen’s accidental overdose goes viral

Jake Morales, left, and Gunner Bundrick, right, died in "accidental overdoses" earlier this month after they ingested pills laced with fentanyl.
(Fox 10 Phoenix)

The heartbroken aunt of an Arizona teen who police said died of an accidental overdose after he and his friend ingested pills laced with fentanyl is speaking out about the dangers of “experimenting” with drugs.

Gunner Bundrick and Jake Morales, both 19, were found unresponsive on Nov. 3 by Bundrick’s mother — a medical examiner later ruled the teens had died due to a combination of illicit drugs, fentanyl and 4-ANPP.

In a Nov. 20 Facebook post, Brandi Bundrick Nishnick, Bundrick’s aunt, said she wanted to clear up any misconceptions about her nephew while also telling his story. She encouraged others to share her post in the hopes of saving lives.

“Gunner went out with friends on Friday night,” she wrote, in part. “They came back to my brothers [sic] house late and stayed up eating pizza and playing video games – like most 19 year old boys do. At some point during the evening, Gunner, and his friend, took a pill stamped Percocet. The very popular and easily accessible pain killer.”

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Nishnick said her nephew had no known history of drug use and was never a “problem child.” She described him as a star athlete and well-known member of the community.

“We don’t know why he decided to take ‘a pill’ that night,” she wrote in the post that has been shared more than 824,000 times and garnered nearly 400,000 reactions. “The only thing we can assume is that the curiosity of knowing that the ‘high’ is like came into play? Again, we can only assume. His friend also took a pill. Both boys died what we think was pretty immediately. Both went to sleep and never woke up.”

Nishnick said attempts to revive the boys by her sister-in-law and paramedics proved futile, as they had been dead for hours.

“The pills Gunner and his friend took were at the very least laced with fentanyl,” she wrote, which the medical examiner’s report confirmed. “We are still waiting on reports but there is a good chance it was more than 50 percent fentanyl. That’s enough poison to kill 10 adult males.”

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Fentanyl is a potent, synthetic opioid that’s 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It’s approved to treat severe pain, typically in advanced cancer patients, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose and death are linked to illegally-made versions of the drug, and sold through illegal vendors. It is often mixed with heroin or cocaine with or without the user’s knowledge.

“One bad choice, one stupid minor mistake was all it took,” she wrote. “Gunner never had a chance. It’s very natural to be curious and want to ‘experiment’ with things at Gunner’s age. Remember when we were in [high school] and kids considered experimenting with cigarettes?? It’s a different time now. Kids are experimenting with pills because they think they’re safe. They’ve seen them in their parents medicine cabinets from their moms car accident last year or from when their dad threw out his back. They seem harmless.”

“These aren’t the pills in your parents medicine cabinet,” she warned. “They are made in someone’s garage who is trying to make a buck…a buck at the expense of our children’s lives. THERE CAN BE NO EXPERIMENTING. None. It’s truly a matter of life or death. You can’t see fentanyl. You can’t smell fentanyl.”

Nishnick ended her post by urging parents to show their teen children her nephew’s photo and to tell them his story.

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Check your medical records for dangerous errors, experts warn

This story is from Kaiser Health News.

When Liz Tidyman’s elderly parents moved across the country to be closer to their children and grandchildren years ago, they carried their medical records with them in a couple of brown cardboard folders tied with string.

Two days after their arrival, Tidyman’s father fell, which hadn’t happened before, and went to a hospital for an evaluation.

In the waiting room, Tidyman opened the folder. “Very soon I saw that there were pages and pages of notes that referred to a different person with the same name — a person whose medical conditions were much more complicated and numerous than my father’s,” she said.

Tidyman pulled out sheets with mistaken information and made a mental note to always check records in the future. “That was a wake-up call,” she said.

Older adults have cause to be careful about what’s in their medical records. Although definitive data aren’t available, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology estimates that nearly 1 in 10 people who access records online end up requesting that they be corrected for a variety of reasons.

In the worst-case scenario, an incorrect diagnosis, scan or lab result may have been inserted into a record, raising the possibility of inappropriate medical evaluation or treatment. This, too, is something that Tidyman’s father encountered soon after moving from Massachusetts to Washington. (Her parents have since passed away.)

When both his new primary care physician and cardiologist asked about kidney cancer — a condition he didn’t have — Tidyman reviewed materials from her father’s emergency room visit. There, she saw that “renal cell carcinoma” (kidney cancer) was listed instead of “basal cell carcinoma” (skin cancer) — an illness her father had mentioned while describing his medical history.

“It was a transcription error; something we clearly had to fix,” Tidyman said.

Omissions from medical records — allergies that aren’t noted, lab results that aren’t recorded, medications that aren’t listed — can be equally devastating.

Susan Sheridan discovered this nearly 20 years ago after her husband, Pat, had surgery to remove a mass in his neck. A hospital pathology report identified synovial cell sarcoma, a type of cancer, but somehow the report didn’t reach his neurosurgeon. Instead, the surgeon reassured the couple that the tumor was benign.

Six months later, when Pat returned to the hospital in distress, this error of omission was discovered. By then, Pat’s untreated cancer had metastasized to his spinal canal. He died 2½ years later.

“I tell people, ‘Collect all your medical records, no matter what’ so you can ask all kinds of questions and be on the alert for errors,” said Sheridan, director of patient engagement with the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine.

In less dire scenarios, a patient’s name, address, phone number or personal contacts may be incorrect, making it difficult to reach someone in the event of an emergency or causing a bill to be sent to the wrong location. Or, your family history may not be conveyed accurately. Or, you may not have received a service recorded in your record — for instance, a stress test — and want to contest the bill.

Dave deBronkart, a 68-year-old cancer survivor and patient activist, recounts mistakes he and his family have experienced. Once, he checked a radiology report through a Boston hospital’s patient portal. It had his name on it but identified him as a 53-year-old woman.

In another instance, the records that accompanied deBronkart’s mother to a rehabilitation center after a hip replacement incorrectly identified her as having an underactive thyroid when in fact she had an overactive thyroid. DeBronkart’s sisters, who asked to look at their mother’s chart, discovered the mistake and had it fixed on the spot, so she wouldn’t get potentially harmful medications.

“It’s important for people to realize how easy it is for mistakes to get into the system and for nobody to know it. And that can cause downstream harm,” deBronkart said.The law that guarantees your right to review your medical record, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, offers some recourse: If you think you’ve discovered an error in your medical record, you have the right to ask for a correction. (For more information about how to obtain your record, see my earlier column here.)

Start by asking your doctor or hospital if they have a form (either a paper or electronic version) you should use to submit a suggested change.

A simple error such as a wrong phone number can be corrected by drawing a thin line through the material and writing a suggested change in the margins or making an electronic note. A more complicated error such as incorrect description of your symptoms or a diagnosis that you’re contesting may require a brief statement from you explaining what material in the record is wrong, why and how it should be altered.

Physicians and hospitals are required to respond in writing within 60 days, with the possibility of a 30-day extension. (Some states set shorter deadlines.) But medical providers are not obligated to accept your request. If you receive a rejection, you have the right to add another statement contesting this decision to your medical record. You can also file a complaint with the government office that oversees HIPAA or a state agency that licenses physicians.

Devin O’Brien, senior counsel with The Doctors Company, the largest physician-owned medical malpractice firm in the U.S., notes that rejections can be warranted when facts or medical judgments are in question. An example might be a patient who wants a doctor’s notes about potentially excessive opioid use eliminated from the record. “The patient may say I don’t have a problem, I don’t know what you’re talking about, but the physician may think the patient has an issue,” O’Brien said.

Another example might be a patient who wants a diagnosis eliminated from a medical record, because it might compromise her ability to get insurance coverage. That wouldn’t be an acceptable reason for making a change, experts said.

For more information about correcting errors in medical records, see this guide to getting and using your medical record from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, this explainer from patient advocate Trisha Torrey, and these descriptions of your HIPAA rights from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and the Center for Democracy & Technology.

We’re eager to hear from readers about questions you’d like answered, problems you’ve been having with your care and advice you need in dealing with the health care system. Visit khn.org/columnists to submit your requests or tips.

KHN’s coverage related to aging and improving care of older adults is supported in part by The John A. Hartford Foundation.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Health Tip: Warning Signs of Suicide

— Suicide is a key public health concern that claims the lives of more than 40,000 people each year in the United States, the National Institute of Mental Health says. It’s the nation’s 10th leading cause of death.

There are many warning signs that someone may be thinking about ending their own life. Here’s the agency’s list:

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
  • Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills or buying a gun
  • Talking about great guilt or shame
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Feeling unbearable pain (emotional or physical)
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Changing eating or sleeping habits
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
  • Talking or thinking about death often
  • Suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
  • Giving away important possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Putting affairs in order, making a will

Posted: November 2018

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