In troubled times in the metropolis, the unexpected rise up and battle the evils that enslave civilizations. Today, such a tale is playing out on the streets of Hartford. Behold…Narcan Man!
Few of us were paying attention when it started to happen. We get called for a overdose at the bus stop, possibly not breathing. We arrive in minutes. There he is! A man sits on a bench, leaning forward, head down. We approach. I can see his chest is moving. Maybe four, six times a minute. I give him a shake. He responds slowly. His eyes are pinpoint. I recognize him as a regular on Park Street. His face is very pale. I see some beads of sweat on his forehead.
Hey are you all right?
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” he says.
I give him another shake.
He is breathing better now.
“How much did you do?” I ask.
“I didn’t do anything. I’m good. I’m good.” He stands and looks around the street. “I’m just. I’m just tired, that’s all.”
“You know what day it is?”
“Monday,” he says.
If this was 2014 instead of 2017, I would have had him papered on the spot. Such is the world we live in.
We let him walk off. He crosses the street, and then pukes in the bushes. I walk back over to him, and ask him again if he is alright. He says he is good, and waves me off. He continues off down a side street.
“What was up with him?” my partner asks.
“I don’t know. It was like I gave him narcan, but I didn’t.”
“Maybe he had an anticipatory reaction to the sirens.
The next week, we get called to Broad and Grand for the overdose. This is prime OD land. We arrive to find the cops looking around. A man stands against the building and looks a little wobbly. But neither he nor anyone else standing around has anything to say. The call originated from the bodega. The cops go inside and ask. The caller comes out and points to the dumpster. He was right there.
No one is there.
The cops think it might be the wobbly guy, but he denies it, as he turns and wobbles off.
A mystery, but not uncommon of late. An OD. Clear, no one found.
I give a talk on the opioid crisis at a paramedic refresher. One of the medics says, “Anyone else showing up on calls to find the patient already narcaned?”
Yeah, Yeah. There is a chorus in response. Me, too. Yeah, happened to me yesterday. Yeah, I saw a guy running off just as we got there, and our patient comes around before I can even put the atomizer on.
I am on an opioid overdose prevention working group, and at our meetings, the harm reduction programs occasionally report on the number of overdoses their clients have performed. I assumed it was within the context of using with their buddies. Could it be that one man has taken it upon himself to patrol the streets. He spots an OD, a quick squirt or two up the victim’s nose and he disappears, as the user is left to wake up like Daffy Duck, Who? What? Where? Why!
Does he work alone? Or is an amalgamation of many? Is he unique to Hartford or does he live in every city beset by the opioid crisis?
How many lives has he saved? How many ODs has he reversed? How many highs has he stolen? I wonder if he follows a protocol? Only use in cases of hypoventilation ? Or is he just squirting every Tom, Dick and Mary on the nod?
Will he be hailed as a hero? Will he get the shit beat out of him? Urban legend or real life Super Hero? I guess we have to wait for the movie to come out.