APPLETON (NBC 26) — A new mural hangs in the hall of Saving Paws Animal Rescue, which shares the story of how big of an impact fentanyl can have on the community and hopes to bring awareness to its prevalence in the Fox Valley.
The new mural shares the story of Tyler Anderson, a twin who was killed due to fentanyl posing one year ago. Tyler is also pictured in the mural with his best friend, Mya, a dog he adopted from Saving Paws.
“Tyler loved Mya. They went everywhere together,” explained Kari Mulder, Tyler’s mother. “After Tyler’s death, we wanted to set up donations to some of his favorite charities and Saving Paws was at the top of the list. In the last year, we’ve donated more than $16,000 to help this organization grow and save more animals. We hope that with this mural painted by local artist, Andrew Linskens, Tyler will be able to watch over Saving Paws and all they do.”
Tyler was 22 years old when he died of fentanyl posing. His parents say his struggles with opioids started innocently with a prescription from a local doctor following a motorcycle accident.
Now, the Anderson-Mulder family is hoping to raise awareness about the dangers of fentanyl and its prevalence in Northeast Wisconsin. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, provisional data shows the number of fentanyl overdose deaths in Wisconsin grew by 97% from 2019 to 2021.
“Tyler was never a bad kid and he never struggled with drugs growing up. We never thought something like this could happen to our family,” explained Bruce Anderson, Tyler’s father.
Struggling with a nerve disease known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Tyler felt as if opioids were helping him manage his pain, which is how a silent addiction started.
Tyler’s twin brother, Zack lived with Tyler during this time. “We were very close as twins, I knew he had a problem with drugs but never thought he was addicted,” Zack remembered. “I never thought fentanyl poisoning would affect somebody in my life, especially not my brother.”
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the CDC.
“For many who overdose, they become addicted to opioids because of how they are prescribed by a doctor. Once their injury is cured they are oftentimes forced to quit cold turkey, leaving them longing for the drugs they were once on. They then turn to the streets to purchase drugs, to instead be sold a fentanyl-laced pill that has a lethal dose,” explained Karen Anderson, Tyler’s stepmom. “The problem starts with the medical system. There needs to be a better way of managing these highly addictive painkillers. Then parents and friends need to be aware of the dangers of these addictive opioids and what fentanyl can do. One pill can kill!”
The mural of Tyler and Mya will remain in the lobby of Saving Paws to remind people of the dangers of the fentanyl epidemic that faces the community.
“We are honored to feature this mural of Tyler and Mya in our lobby,” explained Saving Paws spokesperson, Glenda Stadler. “While the story of what happened to Tyler is tragic, his love for Mya and the shelter shines through the mural and that is what we want him to be remembered for.”
To learn more about the dangers of fentanyl, visit dea.gov.