How to save a life

Sarah Stafford poses in her South Florida residence

EDITOR’S NOTE: For the past year and a half, my 24-year-old daughter, Sarah, has worked as a “tech” at drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation centers in South Florida. She is trained in CPR because of the potential for relapse and overdose of recovering addicts. Sarah is a recovering addict herself, and lives in a nearby home occupied by other recovering addicts with house rules that support their road to recovery. It’s not always easy, though. Temptation sometimes leads addicts to relapse with potential deadly consequences. This is Sarah’s story about a recent incident in her home.

By Sarah Stafford
Around 1:40 pm on Wednesday, January 11th, my housemate came home and went into her bedroom. About two minutes later she comes out and says, ‘Sarah can you come check on my roommate, I think she’s asleep but I also think I heard the death rattle, so can you wake her up and make sure she’s OK?’

I said ‘of course,’ and got up and went in there. The light was off cause we thought she was initially asleep. I shake her leg and say her name and she doesn’t respond. I shake her leg a little harder and say her name a lil louder, and she still wouldn’t respond. I get up and turn on the light and she’s pale but also blue around her eyes and lips. I notice a trickle of blood that’s come out of the corner of her mouth. I tell her roommate to call 911 and run into the living room and grab a thing of NARCAN. I wait a minute or two and am saying her name and lightly slapping her in the face to wake up. My housemate gets off the phone and is attempting to call our other housemate , whom the girl that OD’d is really good friends with. As I grab and administer another dose of NARCAN. the fire department calls us back asking if she has a pulse.

I check both her carotid and radial pulses, which were there but very faint. The fire department tells us we need to begin giving compressions. I look at my housemate, and she says she doesn’t know how, so I begin giving compressions consistently for about three minutes, and I’m getting exhausted.

The fire department tells me to do five. break two. which I begin doing, and as I start doing that my housemate I’m working on is starting to show signs of coming back. She’s gasping a bit and her eyes are starting to roll back. As the paramedics rush in 8-9 deep, I’m still working on her and she sits up gasping and choking but still isn’t really there. Three or four paramedics help her stand up and assist her outside to the gurney, where they give her a third dose of NARCAN in an IV. She goes to the ER and gets discharged that same evening. I was able to see her more alive and as OK as she can be after something like that as I help her pack her things and she returned to detox that night.

My comments: As scary of a situation it was, I’m grateful we had the best possible outcome for such a thing, and I’m grateful my housemate said something when she did or it could’ve been a completely different outcome. NARCAN saves lives, and I truly got to see that. While I hope to not have to do anything like that again I’m grateful I’ll know exactly what I need to do.

Editor’s note: Sarah, I’m so proud of you for jumping in and putting your life-saving skills to work and saving this young woman’s life. You are making a difference. Stay on this difficult road to recovery and continue to make a difference for the people you live with and serve.