British Columbia

Surrey lifesaver 'Little Doug' wins big award for saving overdose victims

Doug Nickerson — better known to his friends as "Little Doug" — has been so busy saving lives over the last few years, he’s only had time to visit Surrey City Hall twice.

Doug Nickerson is being honoured for saving the lives of 148 overdose victims on 135A Street

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner presents 'Little Doug' Nickerson with the Heart of the City Award. (City of Surrey)

Doug Nickerson — better known to his friends as Little Doug — has been so busy saving lives over the last few years, he's only had time to visit Surrey City Hall twice.

The first occasion was a couple of years ago when he was living on the street and trying to retrieve some of his belongings that were seized by a bylaw officer.

His second trip happened on Wednesday when he was honoured with the Heart of the City Award, which recognizes the outstanding contribution of an individual to the social well-being of Surrey residents.

"I thought the work that Doug Nickerson has done, when he is unwell as he is with cancer, saving lives, was really important to recognize," said Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner.

"This is a man who's been homeless and he's reached out to that whole community to save lives when he could have been looking for some help for himself."


Nickerson is a legend for bringing people back from the dead on Surrey's so-called strip — a two-block stretch along 135 A Street where drug use and homelessness are rampant.

"Dougie has been just a real inspiration in terms of what is possible," said Fraser Health Authority Regional Harm Reduction Coordinator Erin Gibson, who nominated Nickerson for the award.

"He's just been an exemplary human doing pretty amazing things."

Whenever there was an overdose in his neighbourhood, Nickerson would hop on his bike and race over to the victim to administer naloxone, which can reverse the effects.

For every life he's saved — all 148 of them — he has a story.

"The guy was lying on the cement he had overdosed," Nickerson said. "A girl came riding on her bike, yelling for me. She knew I had [naloxone]. I think I dropped every tool in my pocket on that run over to the guy."

Surrey coun. Vera LeFranc congratulates Nickerson on his award at Surrey City Hall. (City of Surrey)

Home sweet home

Nickerson found a house to live not far from the strip about a year and a half ago.

He has made a comfortable home there with some roommates and, with a roof over his head, he doesn't feel the need to go back to the strip much.

"I have everything I need here," he said.

The biggest reason he doesn't go outside much, though, is that he's too sick.

Little Doug is dying.

Pancreatic cancer

When Nickerson was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April, doctors gave him six to 12 months to live.

He has lost a lot of weight and his energy level is way down.

"I feel good at times, relevant to the disease," he said.

"I'm in good spirits anyway, and that makes a good difference. If you're in good spirits and you feel good, you look good. They all go hand in hand, I think."

Nickerson admires his award at his home in Surrey. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Long way from home

When word started to spread earlier this year that Nickerson was sick, his friends started an online fundraiser to send him home to see his elderly parents.

"I haven't seen them in 30 years," he said.

Nickerson says it's unfortunate, but in his physical state he doesn't think he's capable of making the trip.

"I haven't built my folks up with any expectations of seeing me," he said. "They pray for me daily and my mom calls regular."

The money from the fundraiser has been given to Nickerson's daughter to cover funeral costs.

Even with terminal cancer, Nickerson's friends don't think they'll need to plan a memorial service for him anytime soon.

Nickerson, after all, has defeated death 148 times.

They hope he has one more victory left in him.