The time I nearly OD’d, and the thing that saved me

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 A kit with naloxone, also known by its brand name Narcan, is displayed at the South Jersey AIDS Alliance in Atlantic City, N.J. on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014.  (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

A kit with naloxone, also known by its brand name Narcan, is displayed at the South Jersey AIDS Alliance in Atlantic City, N.J. on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Narcan is in the news. It’s a drug that counters the effects of an opiod overdose.

Since it needs to be injected, it hasn’t been available for easy use by the public. But, last week, the FDA gave rapid-track approval to a Narcan injector that could work like an Epipen does in cases of anaphylactic shock.

We were talking about this at a recent WHYY’s news meeting, and I mentioned to the table, “Well, I’m probably the only person here to have their life saved by Narcan.”

That sound you heard was the jaws of various reporters hitting the table in unison. I don’t want to say they regard me as so strait-laced that I have never had so much as an overdose of craft beer – but well, they do.

So I told them the story. Then they told me I should tell you. So here goes.

I am prone to kidney stones. These little buggers deliver incomparable distress. An ER nurse once told me, as I sat doubled over in pain in her office, “Honey, when a white man looks that green, it’s gotta be a kidney stone.”

So, one day when yet another kidney stone hit, I went to see my primary physician. To my delight, he gave me morphine. When stones happen, Sister Morphine is your best friend. She doesn’t exactly take the pain away, but she takes you to a happy place where you just … don’t … care.

Oops … then, the save

But this shot wore off quickly.   In accelerating distress, I went to a local hospital, which shall remain nameless. There, ER doctors gave me another dose of morphine. An overdose, as it turned out.

My blood pressure crashed. My legs flopped about wildly on the gurney like the fins of a fish out of water. ER staff raced in with the crash cart, while my wife cried in the corner. Sister M and I thought this all hilarious. I waved a spastic hand and cried out: “What’s the problem, everybody? I’m fine. I’m fine.”

Enter Narcan.  Not long after it was injected into me, the crisis passed.

A few hours later, so did the stone.

My wife, a hospital professional, later tried to convey to me just how serious my situation had been, but I didn’t get it.

Fast forward a year.  While on the Inquirer editorial board, I wrote an opinion piece on the raging medical malpractice controversy. The essay was not friendly to the medical profession’s point of view.

Days later a hand-written letter from a doctor arrived.

It went something like this: “Dear Mr. Satullo, I understand how you might have a particular viewpoint on malpractice, since I was there in the ER the day we almost killed you. But I’d urge you not to let personal experience poison your objectivity…”

“Almost killed you … ” Those words took a while to sink in.

There but for the grace of Narcan go I.

So I, for one, am very glad the FDA fast-tracked this new autoinjection device.

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