A Lincoln woman addicted to fentanyl gets chance at new life

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -\ The opioid epidemic has been making headlines and taking the world by storm. In 2017 it killed more than 150 Nebraskans.

A Lincoln woman shares her struggles with opioid addiction, and what she believes saved her life.

A Lincoln woman's story isn't an easy one for her to tell, but she's hoping
it can help those who are struggling with addiction.

Tami Johannsen has been suffering from chronic back and body pain.
The treatment was a fentanyl patch. After a decade of being on the patch she decided to make a change.

58-year-old Tami Johannsen doesn't look like your regular drug addict, but she says she is.

"I was addicted. I couldn't live without it. I craved it. I knew when I had to put the patch on. I knew when it was coming up," said Johannsen.

Johannsen was living in St. Edward, Nebraska, and had was taking fentanyl for 10 years. It was a time that became a dark place for the grandmother of 5.

"I was in chronic pain. I couldn't walk. It was a stabbing feeling and just terrible pain," said Johannsen.

Johannsen moved to Lincoln seeking help at Bryan Medical Center almost a year ago. She's working with Dr. Kelly Zach, and is now taking suboxone.

"There are other options out there, and there are some kinds of hopeful things that we can offer," said Dr. Zach.

Johannsen suffers from fibromyalgia which is a chronic widespread pain plus arthritis in her back. However, in under a year of new treatment she feels like a new person.

"I think I’m going on 7-8 months and my life is so much better," said Johannsen.

Dr. Zach says there isn't a stereotype for opioid addicts, and anyone who is struggling can learn from Johannsen's journey.

“There are patients who walk around all day long that are on opioids that are kind of trapped by the medicine so to speak, and they put on a facade. You're at a point where the medications are causing more harm then good. Or they're truly not doing their intended effect,” said Dr. Zach.

Suboxone is now apart of Johannsen's daily routine which is something she's fine with.

"I'll probably be on it for the rest of my life they said. If I feel like this then that's ok," said Johannsen.

Tami also utilized Bryan Health's Independence Center for alcohol and drug treatment. She's expected to have back surgery this fall to help reduce her back pain even more.