Having witnessed the effects of the opioid crisis in her community firsthand, Genoa Healthcare® Pharmacist Kristen Pyland had prepared for the day she’d need to rush into action to aid in an emergency. But it wasn’t until recently that she put her training and quick thinking into action to save the life of a woman she’d never met.
After using opioids at the bus stop down the street, the woman became unresponsive. Not knowing what to do, her friend ran into a nearby clinic to see if someone could help.
A nurse at the clinic with an on-site Genoa pharmacy quickly alerted Pyland that they needed naloxone, a lifesaving treatment that temporarily reverses the effects of opioids. Pyland grabbed the naloxone and rushed to the scene.
When she got there, the woman didn’t have a pulse and was unresponsive to the first treatment. The stakes grew as she searched for signs of life.
“I was doing whatever I could to try to get her up,” Pyland said. “Everything I learned in my training, I put into action.”
While waiting for paramedics to arrive, Pyland administered the second dose. She tried to feel for a heartbeat, but still she felt nothing.
The seconds stacked as Pyland prepared to administer CPR. Suddenly, there was a flicker of movement. A rhythm from the woman’s heartbeat began to pulse, and she was able to sit up.
The sounds of the traffic around her dimmed away, and Pyland felt a flood of relief as she realized she had just saved a life.
“For her to walk away from this is truly a miracle,” Pyland said. “I didn’t think she was going to make it.”
Pyland said that opioid overdoses are all too common in the area where her pharmacy is located, and it’s rare for someone to come in and ask for help.
“We’re fortunate that the woman’s friend alerted the clinic about the overdose, which gave us a chance to save this person,” Pyland said. “We usually don’t get that opportunity, and it’s heartbreaking.”
Pyland’s pharmacy cares for a large population of consumers with substance use disorder (SUD) – and in the county where the pharmacy is located, more than 1,200 people died from an opioid overdose in 2021, according to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. Consistent with national trends, that number has been steadily increasing over recent years.
Naloxone can bind to opioid receptors to temporarily block the effects of prescription medications like hydrocodone and illicit opioids like heroin, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). As Pyland witnessed when she jumped into action to help the woman at the bus stop, access to this treatment can be lifesaving.
“The impact this treatment had in this situation is remarkable,” Pyland said. “When I need to go into another situation like this, I’ll have even more confidence in the necessary steps to take and our ability to help.”
Pyland’s pharmacy also works with providers to administer medication-assisted treatment for those with SUD, a program that in combination with compassionate, stigma-free care, can help aid in recovery.
“Overdoses like the one we responded to are happening every day,” Pyland said. “The crisis is getting worse, so to be able to provide consistent, quality care that can lead to recovery is extremely important.”
Pyland’s pharmacy also works with providers to administer medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for those with SUD, a program that in combination with compassionate, stigma-free care, can help aid in recovery. Providers can learn more about MAT during Genoa’s upcoming webinar: MAT: Trends and Outcomes on Dec. 15.
Kristen Pyland is a Genoa pharmacist serving the Phoenix, Arizona, community. She’s been with Genoa for two years.