I was sitting in the doctor’s office with my mom when the first call came. My mom had recently been diagnosed with cancer and my brother Mike and I were there for support. I didn’t recognize the number so I took my time before I stepped outside to hear the message of the caller. It was strange. I heard a lot of shouts and noises that I couldn’t understand but I also heard the caller say in an unsettled voice, “Mr. Glenz?” The phone message cut out abruptly and I was left to wonder what that was all about. I decided to let that go for the time being.
Ten minutes later, I felt the vibration of the cell phone in my pocket. This time it was Joe Renken, the Assistant Principal of Sherwood HS where I worked as a long tenured teacher and coach. Joe was a great friend, my former assistant lacrosse coach and a special colleague of mine. But I felt this was serious business with the doctor and my mom so I did not pick up the call. When I finally stepped outside to hear the voice message, Joe had said it was urgent that I get back to him. I called back immediately.
In a calm voice Joe said he received a call from Tim Curcio, a NYC cop and former lacrosse player of mine and Joe’s on the first of our two NY State Championship teams in 1999. Tim had called the high school looking for me but asked for Coach Renken when told I was out of the school. Joe said there was no reason to panic but my son, Kevin, was found passed out on the pavement of a gas station somewhere in Brooklyn. He was now in Wycoff Hospital on the Brooklyn – Queens border and it looked like he was going to be okay. “What happened?” I asked. “Was he hit by a car?” Joe paused before he said softly, “Tim’s pretty sure it was a drug overdose. He got him to the hospital quickly and will be there if you go now.”
I asked my brother to take our mom back to her home at the Atlantic Assisted Living Facility without explaining anything to them. I got Tim’s number and called him on the way to the city. After reassuring me that Kevin would be okay, he explained that he responded to a call from a gas station owner that complained of a wild man in convulsions on his property. When Officer Curcio and his partner arrived they found the body faced down, out cold and his face was blue. He checked the vital signs and he was breathing with a pulse but he looked ghastly and was unconscious. When checking the victim’s identification, Tim was chilled to the bone when he realized that this was actually his former teammate from high school – his coach’s son - and sort of a friend.
Tim had found other junkies in similar condition in this area of Brooklyn but he later confided, “It shakes you up to find out it is one of your own.” After he called for an ambulance, he called Sherwood HS. When he got my cell number and called, he might have thought it was better to not leave a message until he knew if Kevin would make it out of the coma. The ambulance had just arrived so he called back Sherwood HS and asked Mr. Renken to get in touch with me and gave his cell number.
What were the chances that of the tens of thousands of New York City policemen, the one who would find Kevin would be perhaps the only one of the entire NYPD who knew him? What was he doing in Brooklyn anyway? Kevin lived in Merrick on Long Island with his mother. I had actually talked to Kevin an hour earlier when I went to pick up his grandmother for the doctor’s appointment and he seemed fine. He said something about being on a new job. Tim said he was wearing a Verizon nametag on his shirt when he found him. Apparently, Kevin had just started a new job with the phone company.
As it turns out, Kevin had just shot up a large quantity of heroin in a car while parked in the gas station. He was with another guy on the job. When Kevin overdosed, the kid panicked and fled in the car leaving him on the ground in convulsions. Officer Tim Curcio rode in the ambulance and was with him when I called and said Kevin appeared stable. I told him I’d be there as fast as I could. The ride to Brooklyn was thick with traffic and my mind turned to the Holy Spirit with prayer. “Can you get us through this one?” I asked.
The emergency room of Wycoff hospital was totally chaotic – overcrowded, crazy, loud, and full of every ethnic face and costume imaginable. I was allowed in to see Kevin but had trouble finding him. The staff looked as frazzled as the patients and families of these ill and injured people; yet I will always be eternally grateful to the doctors and nurses who took care of Kevin that day.
I found Kevin on a cot behind a blue curtain with an IV in his arm, eyes closed and his mouth wide open. I stood there looking at him for a long while, wondering how things ever got this far. He awoke slightly when the doctor was tending to him. His eyes caught mine; then he vomited violently into a plastic container next to the cot. The doctor asked him how many bags he had done. Kevin looked totally incoherent but somehow managed to answer, “One.” Drug addicts always lie instinctively, even when wiped out and it’s to no advantage. Drugs and lies always coincide.
Officer Curcio showed up again in his uniform at the end of his shift. He seemed pretty uncomfortable seeing me in this situation. We had all shared some of the most glorious of times together in our roles as coach and player a few years back. And this was the lowest point we had experienced together for sure. I got a chance to hug and thank him personally. When Tim said goodbye to Kevin, he threw up again. In fact, he continued puking all the way home in my car. I took him straight to his mother’s house and he went right to bed. My ex-wife, CB, was upset at me for not keeping her better informed about his condition over the six hours since I called her to tell her Kevin had OD’ed. I could have and should have been more compassionate towards her. This was tough on all of us. But this wasn’t the beginning and it wouldn’t be the end of this drug horror – not by a long shot.