I was walking past the park on the corner of Russ Street and Putnam Street with my coworkers. We go on a walk once a day or so for the exercise and to take a break from work. We were talking, and one of my coworkers looked into the park and pointed.
“Uh, guys?” she said. We followed her fingers and saw a man laying halfway out of the port-a-potty. His feet were still up, and he was sprawled face up, laying in the dirt. “Should we go see if he’s okay?”
“Yeah, I’ll go check,” I said. I walked down the slight hill towards the man. His upper body was covered in tattoos. A needle was clenched in his left hand. His eyes were closed, and it didn’t look like he was breathing. Was he dead?
A couple of other guys carrying groceries came over. “Is he okay?” they asked.
“I can’t tell,” I said. I took out my cell phone.
“Is he breathing?”
“I don’t know.”
Then, as if summoned by the question, the man let in a sharp, jagged inhale of breath and shot it out just as quickly. He went back to being perfectly still.
“Call 911,” one of the men said.
As I was on the phone, two other people approached, a man and a woman from Putnam Street. The man had on a teal polo with grey slacks, and the woman was wearing a slick black suit with kitten heels.
“Did he overdose?” she asked.
“We think so,” I answered.
“Go get your Narcan,” she said to her companion. He ran off back in the direction he came from. “¡Dale!” she yelled after him. She turned back to face the man and shrugged. “If you can hit them with the Narcan, then you can save their life,”
We stood there, looking down at the guy and commenting about what a shame it was. Shame isn’t the write word though. Crime is the more appropriate way to describe it. Pharmaceutical companies have been allowed to addict millions of people to pain medications, and when their money runs out, has sent them running into the arms of heroin, fentanyl and early death. The magnitude of this crisis is hard to imagine. It’s true that no one gave a damn when crack cocaine was having a similar effect on black communities in the 1980’s, but now it’s that everywhere. Morgues are filling up faster than they can be emptied. All of this human misery, in pursuit of more money.
The man returned to the park with a bookbag. In it he had gloves and two different forms of Narcan. “We’re from the Department of Public Health,” she explained. But it was clear that they weren’t EMTs or medical professionals. They were office staff, but the opioid epidemic is so far reaching that even they’ve been trained in how to administer Narcan. He’s prepared and ready to deliver the drug when a paramedic arrives.
“Hey everybody. Has he received Narcan yet?” she asked as soon as she got out her truck.
“No, I tried to give him the nasal spray, but it didn’t work. I was going to give him the shot now,” the man in the teal shirt said, speaking for the first time
“I’m going to need your help. I’ll grab the pointy,” she says, moving the man’s hand with the needle into a safe position.
Apparently it’s common knowledge that Narcan works fast. Well, it works SUPER fast. The man I found looked like he might have been on the edge of life and death; he was certainly beyond consciousness. The paramedic jammed the needle into the man, and almost instantaneously he came back to life. He sat up with no help, placed his own needle on the ground, stood up and put his shirt back on in a matter of seconds. There didn’t seem to be anything else to do, so my friends and I started walking again. And that’s where I find myself now, not sure what there is to do.