Man says he turned his life around after a near-fatal overdose

A North Carolina man said he nearly died last year after an overdose.
Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 9:28 AM CST
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AYDEN, N.C. (WITN/Gray News) - In a hospital bed at ECU Health Medical Center, barely alive from an overdose and battling COVID and pneumonia, Que Whitaker of Ayden was given little chance to survive.

“I was abusing drugs at the time. Cocaine was the drug, and I had got a bad batch. It was laced with fentanyl,” Whitaker said.

It was his young son who discovered him, passed out on that September night last year.

Whitaker said, “Around midnight, one o’clock in the morning that day, my 4-year-old son comes down in the garage and finds me face down on the ground, and I was unconscious.”

Paramedics gave him three rounds of Narcan and rushed him to the hospital, where Whitaker says the prognosis wasn’t good.

“On the fourth day, the doctors had told my mother that they had done all that they could do and that they were probably going to have to give up if I wasn’t coming to myself after they took the breathing machine out,” he said. “They took the breathing machine out, and I don’t know, man, I just came to on the fifth day. I mean it’s nothing but God, I guess.”

Whitaker said it’s all he needed to realize he had been given a second chance at life at a time when others around him were dying.

“I lost a few buddies, a few relatives and friends I used to associate with in the streets. Yeah, they didn’t make it,” Whitaker said.

And that is the reality for thousands of people each year in the state. Preliminary figures from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services show more than 4,000 people died from drug overdose in the state last year.

Whitaker said he was determined to turn his life around for himself and his kids. He immediately began attending classes at L.I.F.E Ministries at the Winterville Baptist Church, a nonprofit addiction recovery program.

“He’s got an incredible faith and a determination to beat any obstacle the enemy would throw at him. I have seen in Que really an above average desire to want to live a productive life and good life and that plays a key role in overcoming any kind of addiction, the attitude,” said Pastor Mike Dixon, founder and director of the program.

Whitaker said his life really has come full circle and in a good way. He now works at ECU Health Medical Center as a nurse assistant, the same hospital where he nearly died last year.

“I just look at it like I’m a helping hand so I mean it becomes more enjoyable, it makes me feel inspired to be able to help someone that’s sick with their life on the line,” Whitaker said.

While he’s currently a nurse assistant, Whitaker said he has bigger aspirations. He’s taking classes at Edgecombe Community College to become a nurse. But he also wants to help others who may be going through the same thing he did and be an inspiration for them to change.

“So that they can follow my footsteps and not think that it can’t be done because I used to think that I can’t stop, that nothing is going to make me stop, I got to have this,” he said.

“I hope that his story will give hope to many people that may be struggling,” Dixon said.

And perhaps they’ll realize, as Whitaker said he has, that beating an addiction means you’ll be doing exactly what the word “Life” in L.I.F.E. Ministries stands for: Living In Freedom Everyday.

“I think that I have a purpose on life, that God kept me here because he thinks that I have a purpose to still be here to serve in life,” Whitaker said.

Whitaker said he expects to finish nursing school in 2025. His long-term plans include going back to school after that for radiology.

L.I.F.E. Ministries has been around for seven years and currently has four chapters. Their programs are free.