I was driving on I-71 between Cleveland and Columbus this afternoon when I saw an American-made, four-door sedan on the highway’s shoulder. The car was crooked, both front tires in the grass outside of the breakdown lane. The front door was open, and the driver. a man in a blue sweatshirt, had half his body outside, facing the ground as if to throw up while still buckled in, one arm on the door, the other on the steering wheel.
Then, I was past him.
I wondered: Is he having a drug overdose? In my jacket pocket, I had two doses of naloxone, provided to me free by the Licking County Health Department under a state program called Project Dawn.
In a 70-mile-per-hour moment, I was too far away to stop. I looked for an exit, but none came for eight miles.
At Exit 151, I called 911 and told the Highway Patrol what I’d seen. The dispatcher said she’d send a trooper to check.
I got back on the interstate, heading backwards, in the direction of the man in the car. I didn’t see him. He was gone. I did see a Highway Patrol car driving the stretch of highway, on the side where I’d reported the man.
What does this mean? Did I panic? Can’t a man be sick in Ohio anymore without someone thinking he’s suffering a drug overdose?
Earlier in the day, I spent a few hours at Cleveland’s syringe exchange program van, watching Chico and Roger help heroin users stay healthy. Chico and Roger have worked in the van together for years.
Among the questions they ask heroin users are, “you got Narcan? and “you ever overdosed?” Chico and Roger carry naloxone everywhere they go, on- and off duty.
Roger told me a story about how he was walking down the street one day and saw a crowd gathering around an unconscious man in a car. Roger walked over and asked the man’s friend, “Was he using?” The man didn’t answer, so Roger asked more forcefully, “Was he getting high?” The friend nodded.
Roger administered naloxone and the man revived. Roger continued walking. He was three blocks away before the ambulance arrived.
Touched by an angel, I thought. An naloxone angel saved a life and kept walking.
— Dennis Cauchon, President, Harm Reduction Ohio