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Faces of COVID: The pandemic killed her son, even though he never had the virus

Isolation, addiction and an overdose: The challenges of the pandemic proved to be too much for 28-year-old Ricky Pratt of North Royalton

NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio — For the last several months, we've brought you the faces behind the numbers; those who've survived or passed away from the coronavirus.

But not every person touched by this virus has contracted Covid-19. A fact Rosemary Pratt knows all too well. Her son Ricky never had coronavirus. Still, she says – the pandemic – killed her son.

Her son Ricky was 28 years old. He grew up in North Royalton. He was part of a loving family, with two parents and a solid foundation. Family trips happened often, family dinners, long walks with his dogs – a wonderful, full life. Eating healthy and exercising a huge part of his routine. But after high school, he had a confession.

Credit: Rosemary Pratt
Ricky Pratt.

"I knew something was wrong," Rosemary recalled. "He came to us embarrassed and ashamed, and admitted to us he had an opioid addiction."

Addiction: the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular thing, activity or substance.

It's a problem more common that we'd like to think. Ricky struggled, but with help from his parents and brother plus years of work, Ricky graduated rehab, found a sponsor and landed a great job with the Local 868 laborer's union. He never missed a day of work. Life was good. 

Then, the pandemic hit.

"I think back now and he was scared and it really bothered him and the news would show what was happening in Italy and France and he said he couldn't watch it," Rosemary said.

A man who loved concerts, the gym, and socializing became a hermit as the world shut down around him. Rosemary knew her son was having a tough time.

Credit: Rosemary Pratt
The Pratt Family.

"The whole week before he passed, I still have all his texts and he would text me I'm bored there is nothing to do."

Then one Saturday morning in May, Ricky's father found his body in his apartment. Tragically, he overdosed on fentanyl.

"Ricky's death was Covid," Rosemary said. "I wholeheartedly believe if Covid wouldn't have happened, my son would soon be here without a doubt."

She believes Ricky had nowhere to turn and nothing to do. His routine broken and drugs became a comfort – again.

Ricky's mental health suffered. He too, was a face of Covid, 

There are many grim milestones to share when it comes to covid. The 537,000 Americans who've died because of the virus. And another grim milestone – the more than 81,003 people who overdosed in a 12-month period ending in June 2020. 

The highest number ever recorded in the US – in a single year. Rosemary is still coming to terms with the fact that her son is a number in any statistic to come out of the pandemic.

Credit: Rosemary Pratt
Ricky and Rosemary Pratt.

"You see the numbers of who died during the pandemic and I think to myself… the mental health and isolation and even the seniors who can't see their loved ones," she said. "It's heartbreaking, it's heartbreaking."

Rosemary is also speaking out about her son's death to help fight stigma surrounding addiction. She was ashamed for so many years. But today she says she hopes to connect and help others going through the same thing because the reality is, many many families are struggling. The pandemic has taken quite a toll on the mental health of so many. 

There are resources and there is help if you need it. Here are some local starting points:

Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255