WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- When a woman overdosed on Tuesday morning in Winston-Salem, the people she was with nearly left her for dead. Instead, they called someone they trust; a former user.
“They were going to leave her in a hotel room and just shut the door behind themselves,” said the former user, who didn’t want to be identified, so we’ll call her “Emily.”
When Emily got clean, she and her husband started visiting a nearby needle exchange. There, they get clean needles to give to users out of their home.
“You just don’t stop being friends with people when your lifestyle changes,” Emily said. “So, I was still friends with them and I was afraid that they were going to die.”
“We’re willing to help by putting our names down on paper for them, and that way they can get the supplies they need to make sure they don’t spread any diseases,” said Emily’s husband, who we will call “Andrew.”
In addition to the needles, they also gather Narcan and Narcan trainers.
“I could call these people and say, ‘Hey, you know I have Narcan, come and get it just in case,’” Emily said.
So, when the users called Emily saying they were with someone who was in the midst of an overdose, and they refused to bring her to the hospital, Emily told them to bring the woman to her home.
“They literally barged in, carrying her, because she was limp,” Emily said, describing the woman as looking “like a dish rag, limp. [They] dropped her like a sack of potatoes.”
Andrew called 911 and the dispatcher told him to wait for officers to administer the Narcan.
“Within a couple minutes the first cop showed up,” he said.
When officers first gave the woman a dose of Narcan, it didn’t work. They then tried a second time, and still, nothing happened.
“She was like a pale, almost bluish color,” Emily said. “She was cold and clammy.”
But, when EMS got there and gave the woman CPR, she started to breath.
“She literally came back from nothing,” Andrew said.
Emily and Andrew consider themselves a source of peer support; their home, a place users can go when they’re too scared to seek help elsewhere.
“In most cases, they’re not going to want to go to the hospital,” Emily said. “They’re definitely not going to want to call 911.”
On Tuesday, after the people the woman was with nearly signed her death warrant, Emily and Andrew very well may have helped give her a new lease on life.
“From my door to across the street I could hear her crying from inside the ambulance,” Andrew said. “She was sobbing, but she was alive.”