The woman was cold to the touch and beginning to turn blue, and the sheriff’s deputy could smell alcohol and knew she had recently picked up a prescription.
Johnson County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chuck Murphy had just completed training on how to use a narcotics overdose intervention drug the night before.
He didn’t hesitate to put that training and the new medicine into action.
Murphy spritzed part of the dose into the woman’s left nostril and before he could even spray the rest into her right nostril, she had snapped back into consciousness. Although she was a little confused, she was breathing and was able to tell the officer she felt fine while they waited for an ambulance to arrive minutes later.
This situation is exactly why all police departments and Johnson Memorial Health have teamed up to put the intervention drug, called naloxone, in the hands of police officers. Since police often are the first to arrive when emergency crews are called, the drug allows officers to stop an overdose almost instantly while waiting for paramedics to arrive and provide more extensive care.
Thanks to the quick thinking of a taxicab driver who helped her into the house before she passed out and the intervention drug, the woman is recovering instead of possibly becoming another overdose-related death in the county.
“Supposedly she came out of it right away after giving her the medication. Between the officer and the taxicab driver, they probably saved this lady’s life,” Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox said.
State laws have recently changed to allow police officers and other first responders to carry and use naloxone. The intervention drug, which has been used by medics for decades, is able to quickly stop the negative effects of narcotics, which include slowing down a person’s breathing, heart and nervous system.
The drug was mainly being investigated as one way to fight against the rising number of heroin cases police are coming across in the area, but also works if people are abusing or accidentally overdose on other opiates such as prescription painkillers, Cox said.
Local police became interested in carrying naloxone after finding out it can be given in a nasal spray instead of by injection with a syringe. Johnson Memorial Health agreed to sponsor the program, by providing kits including a dose of the drug, the nasal spray attachment, rubber gloves and a carrying case to the more than 200 officers in the county. They also will resupply any officer after he or she administers a dose.
Murphy had just completed training on Wednesday evening on how to use naloxone as part of the second half of sheriff’s office deputies to be trained on the drug, Cox said. Officers weren’t given a kit until they had completed training, he said.
A taxicab driver picked up the woman at Community Hospital South about 8:15 a.m. Thursday and stopped at a Walgreens on County Line Road. The driver told police he thinks the woman purchased alcohol while she was inside the store. He then drove her to her home at Lamb Lake near Trafalgar. She changed clothes and then had the taxi take her to CVS to pick up a prescription.
After making the run to the drugstore, she asked if he could help her inside and help with her furnace, because she didn’t know how to use it. While tinkering with the furnace, the woman said she felt very cold and then passed out onto the bed. The cab driver called 911 about 10:30 a.m. and waited for police to arrive.
When Murphy arrived, he could see the woman was unconscious and smelled alcohol. He didn’t know what kind of medication she might have taken but decided to use his naloxone.
Cox said this situation is exactly why he wanted police — as well as corrections officers in the county jail — to have the drug, in case someone swallows a large amount of drugs before being arrested, he said.
Cox spoke with the cab driver on Thursday to thank him for going above and beyond and immediately helping the woman, he said.