Robert’s column

Robert Barron column: Opioid crisis hits home, literally

I found two fire trucks and two ambulances parked in my driveway and along the adjacent street

Nothing brings the reality of the ongoing opioid crisis home quite as well as finding it, literally, in your own front yard.

I was working in my garden in the backyard of my house last Saturday when I noticed the sound of sirens in the distance.

There’s nothing unusual about that; I live on a busy road and the sounds and sights of emergency vehicles rushing along it at all hours of the day and night are pretty common.

But when the sirens got progressively louder until they stopped right in front of my house, I decided it was time to go see what was happening.

I found two fire trucks and two ambulances parked in my driveway and along the adjacent street, and emergency personnel were quickly converging on a large fir tree on the corner of my property.

I could see they were hunched over a young man with a beard, who appeared to be about 25, who was unconscious and it appeared to me that he was having trouble breathing.

The paramedics evidently knew exactly what was wrong with the man, however, and I watched them administer some sort of drug into him after giving him a quick medical once-over while he was laying on the ground.

I was astonished to see what I thought was a comatose man on the verge of death quickly sit up as though he had just laid on the grass to rest his eyes for a minute.

He looked frightened, confused and defiant all at the same time.

One of the paramedics who was observing the work of his colleagues saw me standing there and asked if I knew him.

I explained that it was my property and I came out of my backyard to see what all the commotion was about.

The paramedic took the time to explain that the man had overdosed on opioids and was given naloxone, a medication used to block the effects of the drugs, and that was what brought him around so quickly.

The paramedic said the man would be taken to the hospital where he would likely be assessed and monitored for awhile until it was determined that he had recovered enough to the released.

I really appreciated that the paramedic, who looked younger than the opioid victim, took the time to talk to a concerned looking passerby like myself and explain what I had witnessed.

I took a tour just last week of the overdose prevention site in Duncan and was told how the harm reduction workers there are trained to administer naloxone to deal with overdoses.

The staff were giving out naloxone kits for free and encouraged visitors to take one, once they were shown how to use it, to have in case of an emergency.

I find it unsettling that, while I deal with issues related to the opioid crisis almost everyday as part of my job, I never thought that it would have any bearing on my personal and private home life.

That imaginary bubble burst last Saturday.

Now I want one of those naloxone kits in my house just in case another episode happens like that again, and the paramedics may not be so fast in responding to the next emergency.

With no end to the opioid crisis in sight anytime soon, I fear and expect that it may prove useful at some point.

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