Nelson firefighters trained in overdose antidote

A shot of Naloxone can restore breathing when an opioid drug overdose shuts down the respiratory system.

Nelson fire chief Len MacCharles with a Naloxone kit. He and his staff have recently been trained in its use. A shot of Naloxone can restore breathing when an opioid drug overdose shuts down the respiratory system.

All Nelson firefighters have recently taken training to administer Naloxone, a medication that will save lives in the event of overdoses of heroin, fentanyl, and other opioids.

Chief Len MacCharles said he signed his staff up for the training because “I wanted us to be in the best position to assist. Fire departments have quick response times. BC Emergency Health Services [which runs ambulances in BC] are under a lot of demand and so having fire departments as part of the solution is an important piece.”

According to BCEHS, there were 415 deaths from overdoses of illicit drugs in BC last year, with fentanyl detected in 30 per cent of them.

Naloxone is a medication that’s injected in the thigh or shoulder muscle when respiration is shut down by an opioid overdose and the patient is in danger of going into cardiac arrest. It restores breathing and has no known side effects. It has come into common use because of what Dr. William Dick, vice-president of medical programs for BCEHS, describes as an epidemic of opiate overdoses, often from fentanyl. A naloxone kit is pictured below (Bill Metcalfe photo).

He said Naloxone training, which takes about three hours, covers the basics of what the drug is and how it works, plus practical instruction that expands on the first aid training that firefighters already have.

In short, if a patient is not breathing, they manage the airway, get the patient some oxygen, and give CPR if there is no pulse.

Then they call the 24-hour emergency physician support line, discuss the situation with the doctor and decide whether it appears to be a drug overdose.

Then, if advised by the doctor, they administer Naloxone give one dose, continue airway management, and reassess. If there is no response, they give a second dose.

“Naloxone restarts breathing,” Dick says, “but it also wakes the brain up so the patient can manage their own airway and open it so they can breathe for themselves and don’t aspirate vomit.”

By this point, with any luck, the ambulance has arrived.

MacCharles says they were taught that Naloxone is a last resort and that there is no guarantee it will work.

“It depends on how much opioid was used. This is where it gets troublesome. I am not an expert, but with the synthetics that are coming out, there is a real range in the strength of the drug. Lots of things are getting laced with fentanyl, even marijuana, I have heard. Many young people are so unaware of the dangers of [fentanyl], that if I can save one life I want to do that.”

MacCharles said training firefighters to use Naloxone was started as a pilot project in Vancouver and Surrey last year.

“As soon as I heard about that, I contacted BCEHS and said as soon as it goes beyond pilot I want to be on the list. And they said okay.”

Dick explained that increases in overdoses in BC spurred recent changes in provincial government regulations, which previously did not allow firefighters to give intramuscular injections.

“This is new territory for firefighters,” he said.

 

Just Posted

Kaslo bus fueled by vegetable oil to begin service next month

Mountain Man Mike’s will run routes to Vancouver and eventually Edmonton

Nelson to send two musicians to provincial Festival of The Arts

Lucas Alexander and Nico Bucher will compete in Chilliwack later this month

Police investigating felling of old cedars at Cottonwood Lake

One of the cedars was 300 to 450 years old

Safe boating event planned in Nelson on May 25

The event coincides with the National Safe Boating Awareness week

Kelowna RCMP interrogation video brings home reality in ‘visceral way’: former TRC chairman

Video of Mountie interrogating young Indigenous woman disclosing sexual abuse under fire

B.C. ferry stops to let black bear swim past near Nanaimo

Queen of Oak Bay brakes for wildlife in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay

Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

Former B.C. Greyhound bus drivers head to Penticton for goodbye party

Big bash runs until Sunday, funded by drink cans left behind on busses over the years

Boy, 12, arrested after allegedly pulling a knife on another child at a Surrey park

The child was later released into his parents’ custody as Surrey RCMP continue their investigation

Full-scale search underway for missing kayaker on Okanagan Lake

Kelowna Paddle Centre member Zygmunt Janiewicz, 71, failed to return from his ‘daily kayak’ on the lake

ICBC urging drivers to slow down this May long weekend

Speed is number one cause of car crash fatalities: ICBC

Most Read