British Columbia

Kelowna woman grateful for naloxone after 'harrowing moment' saving stranger's life

Donna Rabbit recently picked up kit as a precaution due to growing number of opioid overdoses

March 07, 2018

Donna Rabbit says she used a naloxone kit to save a teenage girl who was overdosing in a parking garage in downtown Kelowna. (Sarah Penton/ CBC)

A Kelowna woman is urging more people to carry naloxone kits after she used one to save the life of an overdosing teenage girl in a downtown parkade.

On Jan. 12, Donna Rabbit was walking to her car on the fifth floor of the Chapman Parkade on Lawrence Avenue when she noticed a teenage girl slumped against a wall.

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"She was completely gone to the world. I looked at her and thought, oh my gosh, she doesn't look good," said Rabbit to CBC Radio West host, Sarah Penton. 

Within seconds, she said the girl's eyes closed and "she was making these awful sounds."

Rabbit ran to her car for her naloxone kit — the antidote to an opiod overdose — which she had picked up and received training on three weeks earlier.

She said she handed the kit to a young man who was with the girl — said to be 15-years-old — and called 911.

A used needle found in Kelowna's Chapman Parkade in November 2017.

Rabbit says she was so frantic she could hardly hear the operator "because all I could hear was [the girl] trying to breathe and see her starting to change colour."

'Thank God I had that training'

"At that point, the boy came over and said, 'Can you do this?' And he's holding the syringe and naloxone in his hands," she said.

"I jabbed her with the shot ... thank God I had that training."

Rabbit said she and the boy then performed mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions on the teen until paramedics arrived. Eventually, she says, the girl started breathing on her own.

Rabbit said she started carrying the kit as an added safety measure because she works downtown and was aware of increasing drug overdoses.

She describes using it as "a harrowing moment," but says she is glad she was prepared.

Vancouver Public Library now allows workers to administer naloxone if they have their own kits and have training on how to use it. (Sarah Penton/ CBC)

"The training that I got was wonderful. It took the fear out of helping," she said.

She says she now doesn't leave home without a kit in her purse and is increasingly aware of her surroundings.

"I'm always looking over my shoulder, watching the streets to see if everybody is OK," she said.

"The idea of not being able to help somebody, the idea that somebody could die in front of me, that terrifies me."

'No longer not our problem'

According to the latest report from the B.C. Coroners Service, 125 people died of a suspected illicit drug overdose in B.C. in January — an average of four a day. 

During a two-month trial of surveillance cameras in Kelowna parkades last summer, security guards and paramedics responded to dozens of drug overdoses.

Rabbit says she would like to see more people prepared and equipped with naloxone, which can be obtained for free at many pharmacies.

"You just never know when you're going to see something happen. It could be in a busy restaurant, it could be in the alley, it could be here in the parkade, it could be wherever you are," Rabbit said.

"This is no longer not our problem."

The B.C. Ministry of Health says the Take Home Naloxone program is available to people who have a history or using illicit drugs and to anyone likely to witness or respond to a drug overdose.

With files from CBC's Radio West and Sarah Penton.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jaimie Kehler

Jaimie Kehler is a web writer, producer and broadcaster based in Kelowna, B.C. She has also worked for CBC News in Toronto and Ottawa. To contact her with a story, email jaimie.kehler@cbc.ca.

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