HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - He found the woman slumped over the steering wheel, an empty syringe on the floorboard and her skin dulling to a purplish blue.
Dave McClure, an EMS supervisor, counted four faint breaths per minute. Without the antidote he carried, she’d be dead in five minutes.
It was 3:25 p.m. on what was, so far, an ordinary Monday. For an EMT in this struggling city, bringing an addict back from the brink of opiate-fueled death counts as routine.
But as McClure searched for an unscarred vein in the young woman’s arm, dozens of others were shooting or snorting the same toxic powder she’d just taken. They started dropping, their muscles seizing, pupils shrinking to the size of pinheads. The heroin epidemic that had been quietly killing by the thousands began boiling to a climax that would traumatize the city and exhaust its emergency responders.
McClure’s radio squawked as he pushed in the IV full of a liquid called naloxone, which blocks the effects of opioids and jolts those overdosing back to life. “We’ve got another overdose,” the dispatcher reported. “We’ve got two more.”
The woman’s eyes blinked open.