A project of Addiction Policy Forum

2 min read

Zafer Kiesa

By Zafer's sister, Jess


My brother Zafer died from an accidental heroin overdose last month. He was 19 years old - just months away from his 20th birthday. Zafer, affectionately know as “Z,” was a beloved son, brother to three siblings, and friend to many.


Z was a sophomore at the University of Colorado, where he was known as an adventurer, traveler and explorer who sought out thrills whenever possible. He was an avid tennis player and loved to skateboard, hike, kayak, and follow his favorite sports teams. He liked to begin where the chair lift ended--he’d carry his skis higher up the mountain in search of an untouched backcountry run. Many of his finest selfies come from his treasured mountain explorations in Colorado.



Zafer Kiesa1Z was the “connector” in our family; he always made sure to reach out after going too long without checking in. It was second nature to him to send a text, email, or even a handwritten note just to remind people that he cared. We used to joke that Z paid more attention grooming his emails to Grandma than he did on his papers for school.


On the night of April 13th my brother tried heroin. He bought it for $7.00 a hit. Z went to sleep and never woke up. My family's pain, shock and grief upon losing Z is one story among many that evidence the public health crisis facing this country. Heroin use has more than doubled among young adults in the past decade.

Our lives have been forever changed by the life of my brother. His spirit and energy will live on within each of us and through the good we contribute to this world. Our hope is that by sharing Zafer’s story, and telling the truth about his death, we may be able to save another life.



Zafer Kiesa2

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