Three Lives

The heroin epidemic continues unabated in Hartford. I called the time on two fatal overdoses in a recent week. Both men were in their 40’s. One was in a low-rate motel. He sat by the window in his breeze-less room, the curtains pulled just enough so he could see the cars rolling past on the highway. His head had rolled back, his mouth open when he died. He was riggored in his chair, surrounded by half unpacked moving cartons that held his tattered belongings. The room was dirty. The TV showed footage of the Dallas shootings. The ashtrays overflowed with butts. There were scattered glassine envelopes with a monkey stamped on them. The other man was in the guest bedroom of a small apartment where he was staying with his sister and her four year old son. He lay back on the neatly made bed, his feet on the floor, his eyes staring at the ceiling, his skin cold and grayish blue. On the bureau was his prescription for Buprenorphine. His sister said he had been clean for three months. She and her son had spent the night at her mother’s and returned in the morning to find him there.

The next day, I did a third overdose. A man spotted down an embankment in the bushes of a city park, across the street from a shopping area where I have treated multiple overdoses in the past. The fire department carried him up through the thickets to the sidewalk path, where we worked on him. He was apneic, but still had a pulse. 2 mgs up Narcan up the nares. While we waited for him to begin breathing on his own again, I bagged him. As I held a tight seal, and steadily squeezed the bag, I looked down on the park and could see the public swimming pool. It is one of the rare fifty yard pools in the country. It was in the 90’s that day and the blue water was very inviting. Sometimes in the summer, I take my lunch break from my coordinator job and go to that same pool and swim laps. The water is cold and clear as I glide through it. When I am done, I lie for a few minutes on a towel and feel the sun on my skin and gaze up at the robin egg blue sky. Sometimes a community group comes and they splash and play under the eyes of the councilors and the city lifeguards. When I was a child I lived at the pool in the summer. Most of the mothers of my friends were stay home moms like mine, their job to ferry the kids around. My childhood was idyllic. While I have had my share of sorrow and heartbreaks in life, I have never had a feeling that no cared about me. The three lives I mentioned, one white, one black, one Hispanic could have come from any background. I don’t know if they were rich or poor, from broken childhood home or not. All I know if that at some point they lost their way. Whether they got into the drug by getting hooked on prescription opiates following an injury, or through recreational use or to escape sadness, it does not matter. A highway motel. A guest bedroom. A city park. I do not believe that no one loved them, that there was not the possibility of renewal ahead for them. The one survivor denied that he used heroin when he finally came around. A firefighter told him to be honest with us. He had been near death and had his life saved. Had someone not seen him, and the firefighters not gone down into the thickets on ground with scattered human feces, and carried him up where we gave him narcan and breathed for him until he could breathe again on his own, he would have died. The man bowed his head and said nothing. I saw him staring at his swollen and pocked AC in the crook of left elbow. Most of his veins were pristine. He was new to the struggle.