When Parksville businessman Dan Jack took up the offer of a free Naloxone opioid antidote kit by Oceanside Health Centre in January, he never imagined he would be using it within a few months — and within a few feet of his workplace.
But that’s exactly what happened Saturday morning when he arrived at work to discover a man lying on the ground and unresponsive behind the building in Parksville’s downtown core.
Jack said his receptionist had come in saying there was a group of homeless people under a covered loading dock behind the building. She asked them to leave, but said one man was “dead asleep,” Jack said.
“When I went around the side of the building to go check, there was another fella saying, “Call an ambulance! Call an ambulance!’ It was his buddy. I asked him, ‘Is this a fentanyl overdose?’ and his buddy said, ‘Yeah.’”
Jack continued to the rear of the building to find a man laying on his back and unresponsive.
“I went up to him and it was like he was completely motionless; there was no twitching or anything like that,” said Jack. “His eyes were wide open, not blinking at all. And his breathing was very, very shallow. He was on the verge of — he was dying.”
Within a half-minute of the discovery, Jack said, the man’s friend returned and said an ambulance had been called. But Jack decided to grab the Naloxone kit he keeps in his car and prepare it for an injection.
“I already heard at that point the ambulance was on its way,” Jack said. “But you hear the horror stories. I wasn’t waiting.”
He broke the seal on one of the two vials in the two-dose antidote kit, drew the solution into a syringe and was preparing to plunge it into the fleshy part of the man’s upper chest, when he saw the ambulance arrive.
“I had no idea I was going to use it this early, or was ever going to use it,” said Jack. “But I remember what my training was, and I was (inches) from his chest when I saw the ambulance pull up. I told the (paramedics) if they were 30 seconds later they would have seen the naloxone treatment.”
Jack said the paramedics administered oxygen to the man, recorded his vital signs and massaged his legs and body to stimulate circulation. Eventually, he said, the man began to show limited signs of responsiveness before being loaded into the ambulance to be taken to hospital in Nanaimo.
“They did try to get out of him what the drug was, and he denied it,” Jack said. “But his buddy told me, ‘It’s fentanyl.’”
Although he ultimately handed off treatment of the man to paramedics, Jack felt the incident illustrated the need for the naloxone antidote kits in as many hands as possible.
Jack received his free kit from Oceanside Health Centre after seeing a poster advertising a free training session from a registered nurse.
Naloxone, or Narcan, is a medication that reverses the effects of an overdose from opioids such as fentanyl, heroin, methadone and morphine.
“I missed the first (training) session, and when I went to the second one I was the only person in the room,” he said. “I asked the nurse how many people were at the first one, and she said, ‘None.’
“This is why I like to spread the word. The problem’s right here; we need to get a lot of people running around with these (naloxone kits), and that might save a few lives.”