Woman hospitalized after touching dollar bill she believes contained fentanyl

A Kentucky couple is speaking out after the wife said she overdosed after picking up a dollar bill.
Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 10:32 PM CDT
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BELLEVUE, Tenn. (WSMV) - A Kentucky couple is speaking out after the wife said she overdosed after picking up a dollar bill.

Renee Parsons picked up what she thinks was a fentanyl-laced dollar bill during a fast food stop in Nashville and had a bad reaction. Her husband said he even started to feel symptoms after his wife touched his arm.

Renee and her husband, Justin, of Lexington, Kentucky, were on their way to a work conference in Dallas Sunday with two of their children. They stopped at the McDonald’s on Highway 70 in Bellevue.

“As I was walking inside, there was a dollar on the floor just hanging out, so I picked it up, not thinking anything of it,” Renee said.

She said her body went numb within 10 minutes after picking up the dollar. She said she could barely talk or breathe before passing out.

“She hadn’t said anything for a while, then said, ‘Justin, I am sorry. I love you.’ Then she just quit talking,” Justin Parsons said.

They drove to St. Thomas Ascension Hospital, where paperwork showed the chief complaint was an accidental drug overdose. Renee and Justin believe the dollar she picked up was laced with fentanyl.

Dr. Rebecca Donald, a fentanyl expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, had some reservations about the story.

“I think it is really unlikely the substance this lady got into her system is fentanyl based on the symptoms she had,” Dr. Donald said.

Donald is an assistant professor of anesthesiology and pain medicine at Vanderbilt. She said skin-to-skin contact is not a way people are exposed to drugs at levels that would cause them harm.

“It is much more likely for her to have a reaction if she had inadvertently rubbed her nose and exposed that drug to some of the blood vessels in her nose or licked her fingers or rubbed her eyes,” Donald said.

Donald said the drug could get aerosolized and inhaled.

“That would take more of a volume of drug or quantity of drug,” Donald said. “It is certainly not impossible for that to happen, but one would think it would be a significant amount that you could see it on the hands and dollar bill to get into the air system.”

Donald said someone’s medical history and medications might also contribute to symptoms. However, he noted fentanyl contaminating anything is a safety threat and could be life-threatening.

“What I do know is how I felt, what happened. It can’t be made up,” Renee Parsons said.

Metro Police said officers did not see any residue on the dollar bill, so it was not tested for fentanyl since anyone was charged. Police are still going to destroy the dollar bill.

Metro Police said this is not an issue they see in Nashville.

Last month, the Perry County Sheriff’s Office said there were two separate incidents in which methamphetamine and fentanyl were found in folded dollar bills on a gas station floor.

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