‘I thought he was dead’: nurse details naloxone injection

Walking in to find someone passed out in a bathroom due to an overdose is a sight Tamara Barnett never gets used to seeing.

Walking in to find someone passed out in a bathroom due to an overdose is a sight Tamara Barnett never gets used to seeing.

Working 10 to 12-hour shifts as a street outreach nurse with Island Health and providing services to the city’s homeless, addicted and mentally ill, Barnett is often called to help in the event of an overdose in the downtown core.

Earlier this year, Barnett responded to an event in which a 19-year-old male had overdosed in a downtown bathroom. She arrived to find him unresponsive, blue and not breathing, but he did have a heart rate.

That’s when Barnett’s training kicked in and she sprung into action, injecting the male with naloxone — an opioid overdose antidote, which is injected into the thigh, buttock or shoulder.

“I thought he was dead. My heart was definitely in my chest. It was a big pressure cooker situation,” said Barnett.

The first injection didn’t work and she was forced to administer it for a second time — which brought the male back to life before paramedics arrived on scene.

That was Barnett’s first time administering naloxone, but it wouldn’t be her last. She’s responded to 35 overdoses in the last year, administering one to five naloxone doses in each case.

“We’ve definitely noticed an increase in overdoses within the last year. Especially around Christmas time last year, it got quite bad and it’s been a steady (increase) since then,” said the 32-year-old, who has worked as a street nurse for the past three years. “It’s gotten worse on the street. We really need more services out there.”

In all the overdoses Barnett has attended, she has been able to revive them, but that isn’t the case across the province.

In April, Public Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall declared a public health emergency related to drug overdoses in the province. More than 555 people have died from illicit drug overdoses so far this year, and according to Island Health, there have been 107 overdose deaths. Fentanyl continues to be detected in about 61 per cent of fatal drug overdoses, according to statistics released by the B.C. Coroners Service.

Since then, the province has launched a multi-pronged response strategy which includes making naloxone kits more readily available.

On Vancouver Island, more than 600 staff, including nurses like Barnett, at nearly 60 sites, have been trained on how to administer naloxone as part of the Take Home Naloxone program.

More than 2,300 kits have been distributed around the Island this year, compared to the 555 kits distributed the previous year.

Barnett has also helped train hundreds of family members and friends of people who use drugs on how to use the live-saving kits.

Other programs are also being put in place to help people with their addictions.

A few weeks ago, Island Health announced it will be adding 38 substance use beds by early 2017, as part of a provincial plan to open 500 such beds across British Columbia as well.

According to Kelly Reid, director of mental health and substance abuse with Island Health, the detoxification, stabilization and supportive recovery beds have been successful at helping people overcome their addictions.

“These beds are for people who are going to potentially be at significant risk due to the effect of withdraw and need medical attention through that process,” he said, noting the beds are constantly in use. “They are all earmarked for individuals who are trying to recover from substance use . . . We need to stay focused on how we help people to address their addictions.”

On the street, Barnett said there has been an increase in awareness of overdoses and more people are carrying naloxone kits.

“Our patients have had family members or friends overdose and die. I think the word is out there. It’s very upsetting and very sad to sit with someone after their family member has passed away,” she said. “The street community is really feeling it and they’re definitely taking naloxone kits to heart.”

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Black Press Media file photo)
Court-registered sex offender arrested for breach of parole in Langford

Cameron Ratelle returned to correctional facility after female youth approached at bus stop

Marc Porpaczy said he’s glad he delayed his daily walk with his dog, Juno, after a car crashed just outside his driveway just before 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 25. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Dramatic crash highlights need for sidewalks, say Colwood residents

‘The residents have gone from frustrated to angry’

Jerry Dyck plans to purchase a new RV to drive across Canada in, once it’s safe to travel again. (Courtesy BCLC)
Victoria man plans post-pandemic cross-Canada RV trip after $2M lottery win

Retired electrician bought the winning ticket in Duncan

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Residents of the Cowichan Valley decorated more than 55 vehicles with anti-racist slogans for a car rally in support of Cowichan Tribes on Saturday, January 24. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Dozens join anti-racism car rally and virtual panel in Cowichan Valley

Provincial ministry and BC Green caucus issue joint statement detailing concerns

Jesse Savidant, 31, is wanted by the RCMP after failing to appear in provincial court in Nanaimo in December. Police warn Savidant should be considered violent. (Photo Submitted)
Warrant out for man accused of stolen property offences across Vancouver Island

Jesse Savidant did not appear for court date in Nanaimo last month, say RCMP

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is urging visitors to stay on designated trails after a hiker became injured in an unsanctioned area last week. (Westerly file photo)
Injured hiker rescued in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

Local musician and artist Daisy Melville created a watercolour portrait of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders from the recent American inauguration, and with help from her mom, is now selling t-shirts and more with funds going to the Comox Valley Food Bank. Image submitted
Island artist turns Sanders inauguration meme into art for good

All proceeds from the sale of shirts, sweaters and more will go to the Comox Valley Food Bank

Most Read