It’s not the kind of scene people on Bayshore Drive in southwest Calgary expect to see at any time, much less on a Saturday at 2:30 p.m. But when Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart found a man lying unresponsive on a lawn across from her home, she jumped into action.
“When I got up to him and knelt down beside him, he was really out. He was unconscious. I could smell alcohol on him. I couldn’t rouse him and he didn’t move any limbs. His pulse rate was irregular. His breathing was really shallow and irregular,” Colley-Urquhart said Sunday.
The longtime city councillor, who is also a registered nurse, suspected opioid use, so she grabbed a naloxone kit.
“I had to undo his belt and pull down his pants and I thought, ‘God, I hope he doesn’t wake up and see a councillor doing this to him,'” she said.
She put the needle into the man’s thigh.
“Quite literally within a couple of minutes he aroused and sat up and he was combative. He was strong. He looked at me and wondered who the hell I was and, ‘What is she doing to me?’ I kept trying to get him to stay on the ground because I didn’t know which way he was going to go. And if he had an irregular heartbeat, we could’ve had more problems with this,” Colley-Urquhart said.
The man, who she describes as being in his mid-20s and well-dressed, then pushed her away and wandered down the road. EMS attended but no one was taken to hospital.
“He quite literally could’ve been found dead here,” Colley-Urquhart said.
She said the situation highlights not only the importance of naloxone kits but also how widespread opioid use is in the city. In February, she handed out 30 naloxone kits to her colleagues at a council meeting.
“When you combine alcohol with these opioids, it’s a big problem. That’s what you worry about at Stampede when there’s lots of drinking. Whether you take a drug yourself or whether it’s put in your drink, you have to be careful,” Colley-Urquhart said.
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Despite facing a potentially unpredictable and dangerous situation, Colley-Urquhart brushed it off as just part of being a nurse for nearly 50 years.
She said anyone can use the kits that are available free at pharmacies. Alberta Health Services has made kits available at pharmacies and walk-in clinics free for anyone who wants one, without requiring identification or a prescription.
“In the heat of the moment, an ordinary, untrained person would be nervous but when you have someone whose life is in danger, you just do it. You just get on with it and you do it. It’s not about yourself, really. Once a nurse, always a nurse. It’s in your blood,” Colley-Urquhart said.
“I think by citizens having an outlook for other people and getting one of these free kits that are provided for by the government of Alberta, we can really make a difference here.”
A report released from the province in June said 137 people died from accidental fentanyl-related poisoning in the first three months of the year. That is down from 160 people between October and December 2018.
The report said more than 145,000 naloxone kits have been distributed to Albertans as of March 2019.
Since Jan. 1, 2016, a total of 1,721 people in Alberta have died from an accidental fentanyl-related poisoning death.