Someone Is Overdosing In Periodicals

One Saturday a couple of weeks ago, at noon, I was heading upstairs to give Max his lunch break when he ran past me. Someone was ODing, and Libby, our work study student, was calling 9-1-1. I’m generally the person in charge during my evening and weekend shifts.

In front of the magazines there was a man on the floor. A couple of patrons had turned him on his side, and were shaking his arm and talking loudly. He was unresponsive. Another said the guy had fallen off his chair and that his friends had all run off. The 9-1-1 dispatcher told Libby that there was nothing to do but wait for emergency responders. I texted my boss while we waited so she would know what was going on.

The police arrived first. They recognized the guy and called him by name while trying to get a response. He had started to turn blue while we were waiting for them, and his hue continued to brighten. I always thought the overdosing Heather Graham in Drugstore Cowboy was overkill. I was wrong.

The officers used a syringe to shoot naloxone up one of the man’s nostrils, talking to him throughout the process. I was texting with my boss and my girlfriend throughout, trying to remain calm.

Sometime around when the guy began to stir and respond, firefighters and EMTs arrived. They hooked him up to monitoring equipment. The police officers said they had revived him the day before, and asked him repeatedly to tell them what he had used. They wanted to get it off the street and prevent more repeats. They also explained to him what had happened, and that they had to take him to the hospital to get checked out. He protested.

I’m really glad the guy didn’t die. One of my friends had a guy die in front of the information desk on her very first day as a librarian, but this was the first OD I’d witnessed in twenty-plus years. (I did have have to deal with a dead body on library grounds once). It was super comforting to have police arrive in what seemed like moments after being called, and to have them (and, later, the other emergency personnel) completely take over. The officer who gave me names for my incident report was incredibly pleasant, though he looked like he was seventeen. The EMTs bundled the man up and took him out of the building so efficiently that the only remaining evidence of the whole event was a smudge of blood on the floor. Our intrepid custodian cleaned that up.

Everything was wrapped up quickly. My shift was over, so I checked in with Max (he still had to work the rest of the day), left the incident report on the assistant director’s chair, and headed out.

In crises I act super calm and capable and handle the details. Then I lose it later, sometimes months later. After I left work, it took me about three hours to stop shaking. During that time I ran errands that I don’t remember. Then I squeezed my cat till he squeaked, had a glass of whisky that was older than police officer, and demanded lots of hugs from my family.

-- Elisabeth Dayton


Editors note: We love stories about working in libraries. If you have one you'd like to share, send your pitch to me at geneambaum@gmail.com. (You can use a pen name for your article if you'd like.) --Gene

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