In late-April, a 24-hour surge in drug overdoses in the Santa Clarita Valley shocked community members and emergency room physicians at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital alike.
“Last night, we had a total of eight cases of patients who came in with overdoses of opiates, of heroin,” said Emergency Room Physician Dr. Bud Lawrence at an April 25 press conference. “From a public health standpoint, for the emergency department this is of concern to us.”
The increase in opioid overdoses took 28-year-old Alexander Esquivel’s life and sent seven others to the hospital for overdoses following his death.
Henry Mayo Emergency Room Physician Dr. Darrin Privett, who was working in the emergency room that night, said the uptick in overdoses was a first for him.
“Within a 24 hour period, we’ve never seen anything like that,” he said. “Luckily we haven’t had the increase in frequency like we did that particular day.”
In 2016, Henry Mayo saw 232 cases of drug overdoses, with just under 20 cases per month on average, according to Patrick Moody, Henry Mayo’s director of marketing, public and community relations.
So far in 2017, the hospital has had 107 cases of drug overdoses with an average 18 cases per month, according to Moody.
“It’s fairly consistent and we see it throughout the year,” Dr. Privett said. “Some years we felt like we were doing better and then it reared its ugly head again.”
Emergency Room Treatment
When an overdose patient arrives in the emergency room, Henry Mayo physicians have different responses to the situation based on the condition of the patient.
Dr. Privett said overdose patients can “present differently” by appearing confused, disorientated and delirious or by being completely unresponsive.
“Typically they’re in an altered state,” he said. “The extreme is when they’re very unresponsive and not breathing.”
When patients are unresponsive, physicians administer the drug Naloxone, which keeps an overdose victim breathing by temporarily reversing the effects of the opioid.
“If they’re altered and unresponsive and in critical condition and having a hard time breathing, then we give them the antidote and medication,” Dr. Privett said. “We can give it to them until they become stable.”
When overdose patients are in an altered state with normal vital signs, physicians watch and moderate them as they begin to recover.
“We keep at the antidote at their bedside and monitor them,” Dr. Privett said.
Dr. Privett said a key to saving an overdose victim’s life is to immediately seek emergency help and call 911.
“If there’s anyone that overdoses on narcotic medication the best thing you can do is call 911 because the paramedics have the antidote and carry that and can administer it immediately,” he said.
Deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced June 15 that patrol deputies would carry Narcan, a device that delivers naloxone through a nasal spray, to help keep overdose patients alive until emergency personnel arrive on scene.
Deputies at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station are now carrying the device as well to assist with the epidemic in the area.
Dr. Privett said it is also important for residents to be aware of the problem the community has with drug addiction and to provide assistance to those who need help.
“Drug addiction is a disease and is a disease that can be treatable. You have to approach it just like diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol,” he said. “There is help and multiple resources available to assist you.”
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_