We are called for an unconscious and find the man out cold on his feet near Pope Park. He is a tall man in his early thirties with a ghost white complexion, standing there on the side of the road, his head nodded forward, arms hanging down swaying. Another drug user on the nod in Hartford. I shake him and he opens his eyes and says he is fine, but then he drifts back out. My partner wheels the stretcher over and we gently push him down onto it. He wakes enough to again, say he is fine, but he drops back out. In the ambulance, I check his ETCO2 and his pulse saturation. The numbers are 66 and 90. I can stimulate him and the numbers come up a little, but if I leave him alone, he doesn’t breathe well enough on his own. I put in an IV, which he doesn’t feel. I take a 10 cc syringe, squirt out one cc, then add 1 cc of Naloxone to the syringe. I slowly give him one cc of the mixture, delivered 0.1 mgs of Naloxone, a tiny dose. When he doesn’t respond, I give him another 0.1 mg dose, and soon he is talking to me. He doesn’t even know I have given Naloxone to him.
“I don’t need to go to the hospital,” he says. “What time is it? I have to get back to work or I’m going to lose my job. I‘m on my lunch break.”
It is three-thirty in the afternoon. I ask him where he works and he says he is a house painter. He asks where we picked him up, and after I tell him, he tells me he is painting a house a few blocks from there.
I tell him the doctors will look at him at the hospital, and after, watching him for an hour, will let him go.
“Dude, I can’t wait that long,” he says, “I’ll lose my job.”
I feel for him, but we had to take him in.
His name is Keith and he lives in an upscale suburb of Hartford. The street is familiar to me. I did an overdose there maybe a year before. I remember the mother sobbing at the sight of her son on the bathroom floor, even though we were easily able to revive him. I sensed she was at her breaking point. He had already been through rehab four times.
“You didn’t give me Narcan, did you?” Keith asks.
“Yes, I did,” I say. “Just a little, enough to keep you breathing without me having to shake you every minute.”
“Fuck, I’m going to lose my job.”
“You have to be careful if you are going to use,” I say.
“I only did a half a bag. I just haven’t used. I got out of a program last week.”
“Your tolerance is down. If you are going to use no matter what have someone there with you. Have Narcan around. Do you have it at home?”
“Who do you live with?”
“My Dad took me back in.”
“Does he know how to use it?”
“You have to be careful with the fentanyl around.”
“I know my friend Marty died a month ago.”
The name rings a bell with me. “What was his name?
“I took care of him before,” I say. “That was a year ago.” Marty was the young man I remembered. The news of his death, even though I barely knew him shocks and saddens me. Marty and Keith were the same age
“He got out of jail after nine months and he oded and died.”
“Man, I’m going to lose my job.”
Once we get to the hospital, he gets even more anxious, and he ends up pulling his IV out. I try to get a nurse to come over. I give the heads up that he wants to leave. The nurse says he’ll get a doctor to look at him. The doctor comes over and the doctor and Keith end up in a shouting match. The doctor tells Keith he obviously doesn’t care about his own life because he is doing drugs that may kill him. The young man tells the doctor to fuck off and walks out, swearing that he is going to lose his job and he has to walk all the way back to the job site.
That night I google his friend Marty’s name and add obituary and the name of the town to the search. And there he is – a picture of the other young man. There is nothing in the obituary that mentions drugs. It just says he died too soon and what a kind heart he had. He was a high school swimmer, an avid soccer fan and an accomplished cook. He liked to camp with his family in the Adirondacks. There is a long list of family members he left behind. I read the comments. One poster says how he remembered him so fondly as a little boy playing in the neighborhood. There are even pictures of him when he had to be about five. One shows him with another young boy, and I wonder if it is the man who I transported today.
Another poster writes: “He is no longer in pain.”