Vancouver Island pharmacist saves overdose victim’s life

Quick thinking by London Drugs staff

  • Nov. 1, 2018 9:30 a.m.

A Vancouver Island pharmacist has been credited with saving the life of an overdose victim.

The effectiveness of naloxone as an important tool in the fight against B.C.’s opioid epidemic has been well documented. Courtenay London Drugs pharmacy manager Tara Oxford experienced firsthand the life-saving power recently, after personally administering a naloxone shot to a customer who had overdosed inside the store.

“I just knew what I needed to do,” says Oxford, recalling the incident that took place in early October. “There was no judgment, I just thought, ‘This is the drug that is going to save his life.’ The situation was very intense, but it was very calm. Everybody had a very good understanding of what they needed to do.”

A typical workday at the Driftwood Mall outlet took a turn when a 24-year-old man asked to use the store’s public washroom and never reappeared. After about 40 minutes, and repeated failed attempts by staff to get his attention, store manager Adam Fraser opened the door with an emergency key, where the man was found slumped over on the toilet seat and unresponsive. Surrounded by drug paraphernalia, the man was pale blue and barely breathing.

RELATED: One-third of Canada’s overdose deaths happen in BC

London Drugs staff immediately jumped into crisis mode, calling 9-1-1, cordoning off the area, performing CPR and notifying Oxford to administer a naloxone injection. After gathering her supplies and running to the scene to inject the life-saving drug, Oxford recalls how quickly the medicine took effect.

“I gave the shot, and his colour came back pretty quickly,” she said. “He started to come around and by the time paramedics arrived and gave him some oxygen, he had turned pink again and walked straight on to the stretcher. It was absolutely incredible.”

VIDEO: How to use a naloxone kit

After receiving treatment at North Island Hospital, the young man was released and later came back to London Drugs that evening to thank staff for saving his life and allowing him to spend Thanksgiving with his family, Oxford said.

Oxford is intimately involved with the take-home naloxone kit campaign. She is a board member of the College of Pharmacists of BC, which had a hand in implementing the drug’s de-scheduling for emergency use in 2016.

That said, this was her first time administering the drug in a real-life situation.

“You see so much in the media about overdoses, but you rarely hear stories about people being saved,” Oxford said. “I think it’s important for people to know how effective [naloxone] is.”

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