‘This is how I’m going to die’: Local resident recalls near-fatal fentanyl overdose, journey to recovery

The fourth time that Kylie Petro overdosed on drugs, the efforts to revive her didn’t seem to be working.

It was May 2018, and the pregnant 26-year-old was in a motel room on Columbus’ west side taking what she thought was “really potent heroin.”

Petro had long felt that she would die from an overdose someday. Many people she knew already had.

“This is how I’m going to die,” Petro, now 30, recalled believing for years as she struggled with addiction. “…I had almost accepted that was how my life was going to be like. I was just going to die.”

And four years ago, lying unresponsive in a motel room with a stash of drugs and syringes, it seemed like that destiny had come to claim her. Instead, it set off a chain of events that ultimately led her on a journey to recovery that she never thought was possible.

At the time, Petro, a Columbus native, and her partner, Joshua Terrell, had just relapsed at a rehab facility in Arizona and taken a 48-hour bus ride back to Indiana without much of a plan or a place to stay.

They wound up at Motel 6, 161 Carrie Lane, in May 2018, with, according to police, marijuana, heroin, syringes and a “gray powdery substance.”

When Petro started to pass out, Terrell administered Narcan, or naloxone, a drug also known as naloxone that can reverse and opioid overdose. But to no avail.

“It was scary,” Petro said. “I wasn’t sure what was going on.”

Dose after dose of the nasal spray didn’t work. It turned out that she had not taken heroin, but rather fentanyl — a synthetic opioid that is more potent than heroin that officials say is quickly becoming “the primary fatal drug” in overdose deaths.

Before long, everything faded to black.

“When I opened my eyes, there were like six police officers around me,” Petro said.

Columbus police had received a call that someone was overdosing at the motel, court records state. EMTs soon arrived and were able to stabilize Petro. In total, Petro said she ended up needing about six doses of the nasal spray to come out of the overdose.

“It’s a miracle that I made it out of it, and it’s really a miracle that (the baby) made it out of it, too,” Petro said.

Now, Petro, who celebrated her four-year anniversary of being sober this past week, is hoping that her story can serve as a beacon of hope for those who find themselves in the depths of addiction.

‘Never going back’

After being medically cleared at CRH, Petro was booked into Bartholomew County Jail on preliminary charges of maintaining a common nuisance and possession of heroin, marijuana and a drug-injection device, jail officials said.

Petro said she was placed in the jail’s medical unit. At one point, a judge considered releasing her from jail if her parents would pick her up, Petro said. But her parents refused, thinking it was best for her to remain behind bars.

“I was pregnant. I was in a room. It was probably just like a 7-by-10 (foot) room. It was tiny room. It just had a bunk bed and a toilet and a little sink, and I spent all my time in there,” Petro said.

At that point, Petro said she made a decision that would alter the course of her life. “While in there, I made a choice to never go back to that life,” she said.

“I had to do something different,” Petro added. “I survived the overdose for a reason.”

From ‘curiosity’ to addiction

But it was a life that Petro had been living for a few years — one that started with marijuana but quickly progressed to addiction and homelessness.

Petro said she started using marijuana while she was in high school. When she was about 20 years old, she tried heroin for the first time, mainly “out of curiosity” because many of the people around her at the time were using it.

Before long, she had tried methamphetamine. And by that point, her drug use “just became a need,” she said.

In 2014, her addiction “got really bad.” “It took over, and I just didn’t care about anything else,” Petro said.

In summer 2014, Petro said her mother could tell that she was on drugs and reported her to the Indiana Department of Child Services, who took her two children away. Petro’s mother currently has custody of them.

By October, she had been evicted from the Canterbury House Apartments in Columbus.

“After that, it was like, ‘What do I even need to stay clean for?’” Petro said. “I don’t have my kids. I’m losing my house. What do I need to stay clean for? And that’s what kept me using for a long time.”

Petro, then in her early-20s, found herself homeless.

Finding a place to sleep was a struggle, Petro said. She spent one night at Brighter Days, a local homeless shelter. Sometimes, she able to sleep at people’s houses.

She still had a Toyota Camry that her grandmother had given her. When she couldn’t find a place to sleep, she would sleep in her car at “random places” in Columbus, including parking lots at the former FairOaks Mall and Ivy Tech Community College.

At times, she would rent her car to people so she could stay at “cheap, terrible hotels.”

The following year, Petro got pregnant and ended up putting the child up for adoption, she said. About the same time, she started what she described as cycle of rehab and relapses.

At one point, she went to a facility in Arizona and managed to stay clean for eight months before relapsing. She also spent about seven to eight months at a rehab facility in Bloomington, but “kept relapsing.”

“I would try to get clean, and I would go to numerous rehabs and then I would get out. It was like this cycle that I never really saw the end of the tunnel.”

“I had no hope,” she added.

‘Serious about sobriety’

In fall 2018, Petro was released from Bartholomew County Jail on the condition that she would complete a recovery program at a Volunteers in America facility in Indianapolis for pregnant women and new mothers who are struggling with addiction. At the time, there was no such facility in Columbus.

Petro said she arrived at the facility determined to stay clean and completed the program in November 2018. The following month, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl at CRH.

Petro moved in with her dad in Columbus and landed a job at Tipton Mills Foods LLC through an employment agency. Since then, she has been promoted and how holds supervisory role at the company.

And this past December — just 3.5 years after being homeless, hopeless and on the verge of death in a local motel room — she bought her first home and lives on Columbus’ east side.

“There was a time, to be honest, where I didn’t think (recovery) was possible,” Petro said.

To those struggling with addiction, Petro’s message is “to not give up.” “I gave into (addiction),” she said. “I was like, ‘This is just me, I’m just an addict. This is how I’m going to die.’”

“(Recovery) is possible,” she added.