Book Excerpt: Emergency Workers on an Overdose Victim

What the Hell is Narcan?


This was really happening to me. This was real. There were three, then four, then seven people working on my son in my house. My crying was getting serious; I was only 2 feet from the banister and starting to hyperventilate. I couldn’t answer any of the questions they were asking me. Within a few seconds, I had my own pair of emergency responders. They were worried I was going to pass out from shock or hyperventilation and fall over the banister into the foyer below. They moved me into my daughter’s room and sat me in her desk chair. I could still see them working on him, while a female emergency medical technician (EMT) tried to calm me down.

I was watching them. After they had dragged him out of the vanity room, they cut off all his clothes. They used CPR and an oxygen mask and gave him a shot with a syringe (I learned later that it was Narcan). There were four people huddled around him. Each was doing some procedure or measuring a vital sign.

“What is his name, sir?”


“Hey, hey, can you hear me? Can you see me? What’s your name?”

I didn’t hear if he answered or not. The police were here now—five of them. There were five firefighters, four EMTs, and five police officers.

I sat in the dark, cluttered room of my oldest daughter. She was a freshman at New York University. Even though she had been away since last August, her room was alive with her spirit. I sat bewildered as to how two siblings could be so different. One was at NYU pursuing her passion; the other was fighting for his life because of his passion. Is that what it is? His passion? Is he so passionate about this, that he is willing to go to jail, damage the family, drive like a maniac, stick needles in his arm, risk his life, and ultimately die—for his passion? Was heroin his passion? The contrast between the two kids was stunning.

The EMT who was tending to me was asking me questions. I wasn’t even in the same dimension as she was. She was shaking me by the shoulder and asking if I was ok. Tears were still streaming down my face, my nose was running, and my lips were covered in slime. Before I answered her, I realized that something was different about me now. It was as though the person who I thought I was before today was now but a shadow. Someone who was nearby but no longer a part of me. I shook that thought off and answered her.