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Home » In the Opioid Crisis, Here’s What It Takes to Save a Life: Jan Rader (Transcript)

In the Opioid Crisis, Here’s What It Takes to Save a Life: Jan Rader (Transcript)

Jan Rader – TED Talk TRANSCRIPT

For the past 24 years, I have been a firefighter in Huntington, West Virginia. As firefighters, my team and I are tasked with saving lives and property from such disasters as car wrecks, house fires and also life-threatening medical emergencies.

I am a woman leading a department in a male-dominated profession. And 10 years ago, I decided to increase my medical knowledge and I received a nursing degree. That was because it became clear that the next big threat facing not only my city, but other cities around the country, was not the one-and-done disaster, where you can ride in like the cavalry, as a firefighter, put out the fire and leave, feeling like you have made a difference and everything is OK.

The next big disaster in my city was and is the long, debilitating and lethal disaster known as opioid addiction. We now call this a health epidemic, and we have replaced the name “addiction” with “substance use disorder.”

To give you some perspective of how significant this epidemic has become, in 2017, in my county of 95,000 people, we saw 1,831 overdoses and 183 deaths from overdose. This is the job of my firefighters, as well as other agencies, to respond to that… Excuse me.

So, watching this epidemic unfold for several years, I developed some insight. For this disaster, we need to redefine our job as a first responder. We need to be more than just the cavalry. We need to do more than just save a life. We need to find ways to rebuild that life. And it’s going to take a lot of people to do that. And that is exactly what we are trying to do in Huntington, West Virginia.

Now, let me give you some insight as to what we do. First, this is what happens when somebody overdoses. Imagine you are somebody who is suffering from the brain disorder of addiction. You are fragile. You’re embarrassed, you’re ashamed. And you overdose.

Maybe a friend or a family member calls 911. And then all of a sudden, you are awakened by five or six total strangers in uniform. And they’re rubbing your sternum, and they’re saying, “Wake up, wake up! You overdosed, you could’ve died.” Now, would you not be defensive and angry? Because I know I would be.

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