Earlier this year I had a frightening experience. I want to share those memories with my friends and neighbors in Franklin County in hopes of preventing similar occurrences.

Of the many cultural and literary activities I attend locally, I went to one in Apalachicola at which wine and other refreshments were served. I don’t drink wine, but did have part of a bottled water, which I opened myself. I ate a few nuts, chocolate treats and chips with dip.

The scary experience began upon my returning home. My husband, a first responder, took care of me in the crisis that followed, which included loss of muscle control, confusion, and tremors. He insisted that I go to the hospital, and halfway through Apalachicola, the symptoms seemed to pass away. I insisted on returning home, that “whatever it was” seemed to have gone away and may be some strange virus. Not smart on my part, but that’s hindsight.

Several days later, with that hindsight, I questioned my failure to seek medical help, suspecting that I may have ingested a drug, so I consulted with a friend who advises in domestic violence situations and my daughter, a family/youth counselor. Both believed that I had been exposed to some sort of drug, probably “roofies,” and urged me to see my doctor.

As soon as I called, my doctor had me come in for tests. Those tests showed evidence of drugs in my system (fortunately for me, having apparently been a relatively small amount). Following his instructions, I came away from this experience unharmed, but wiser. Wiser, in that now I know firsthand that such mishaps can happen in my “paradise.”

In other communities, I have been very cautious about leaving my refreshments and drinks on a table unattended, which I thoughtlessly did on that social evening. Several times I put my plate down and turned away from it to socialize, never supposing that it would be tampered with. After all, this was a venue full of people I love, respect, admire and trust.

My advisers and doctor urged me to inform our sheriff of the matter, which I did. He listened, agreed that little could be done about the matter at that point, and added that there are unbalanced people in our world who consider it “cute” to pull such stunts.

Later I learned that several other attendees after the event mentioned similar experiences to mine, but like me, attributed them to “some strange virus.” Many of my friends, on learning of my experience, have told me they would never consider this happening here, and sometimes leave drinks and food unattended while they socialize or take restroom breaks. Like me, they intend to be more cautious about their food in public places.

I have avoided telling the when/where details of my experience, as those facts matter not one bit. What does matter is that it happened here in my favorite place in the world. My point: Don’t think it can’t happen locally. It will and it did.

Dawn Evans Radford