There are so many stories of opioid overdose leading to death this past year. That has prompted Eyewitness News to begin a new initiative called “A Community in Pain” where we look for some answers and solutions to this huge problem. We are partnering with the Mayor’s Substance Abuse Task Force and the Vanderburgh County Prosecutor’s Office to find those solutions.
Brad Byrd was live from the Evansville-Vanderburgh County 911 Dispatch Center and talked with Evansville Fire Captain Larry Zuber about how firefighters have dealt with being called to drug overdoses.
Transcript of interview:
Brad Byrd: “Tonight, we are continuing this effort to raise awareness about this epidemic that has swept Evansville and the Vanderburgh County communities. And it’s evident everywhere you turn. The numbers are so great, very sobering. For example, in Vanderburgh County alone, we are well ahead of last year’s rate of drug overdose deaths. At this time last year, we’ve surpassed that already and for all of last year’s total. And joining me now is Evansville Fire Captain Larry Zuber. And Larry, you’ve been on the force for 26 years. And we were talking before we came on, did you have any idea the firefighters who were often the first responders in so many different type of scenarios that you would see you firefighters placed in the situations they face today in dealing with these tragic incidents dealing with drug overdoses?”
Captain Larry Zuber: “No, it never crossed my mind 26 years ago. You thought about doing the medic runs and of course the fires and crashes. But it is the uncertainty with these overdoses and not more necessarily the actual drug or the victim themselves, but you never know the element that’s going to greet you at the front door or who was with that person or what their intentions were. So, I think the scary part is with the opioid crisis now is the combinations because it’s just so lethal to even touch the stuff.”
Brad Byrd: “We were talking about Narcan. I got the impression from you that Narcan is not the magic elixir for this problem. It really depends on the situation. It is a way to bring someone back. But what is it actually doing for that person?”
Captain Larry Zuber: “The Narcan is really just breaking the high, and most of the time these are going to have to be witnessed overdoses. If someone has been down for 15 or 20 minutes and we get a call for an unconscious person, you kind of lost that window. Narcan is going to reverse the effect of the drug. And without a better way of saying it, when you’re gone you’re gone. It’s going to be hard to bring somebody back already in cardiac arrest. We’re going to use the Narcan of course, but they’re not going to pop right back up. We’re going to have to do CPR. We’re going to have to get life support with the ambulance company over there with AMR and things like that. But if it’s a witness overdose and we can get there quickly, yes we can administer the Narcan and we can bring them out of that.”
Brad Byrd: “It’s an emotional toll on firefighters to see this happening right here in our community, and it hits close to home sometimes for firefighters. These are our people in Evansville and Vanderburgh County who are dying and families are being torn apart. It’s hearbreaking.”
Captain Larry Zuber: “Absolutely because especially with first responders, who never know who is behind the door. You never know if it’s going to be a friend, if it’s going to be a sibling. You never know until you get there and roll that person over and see that face.”
Brad Byrd: “Alright, Captain Larry Zuber, thank you so much for sharing your story, and there will be more stories to share.”
(This story was originally published November 8, 2017)