Transit Peace Officer Matt Yakemchuk has a few seconds to do what he’s trained to do. The person in front of him is literally dead. They’re overdosing, aren’t breathing and have no heart rate.
Yakemchuk unzips a naloxone kit and sprays a dose into the person’s nostrils—enough to block the opioid receptors for a few minutes. He provides CPR compression to the person’s chest to get the blood circulating and improve oxygen flow.
In 10 to 20 seconds, the naloxone hits and blocks the fentanyl. The heart begins pumping. Breathing resumes.
“They’re on an illegal drug and may not even want to live, but I know bringing someone back to life is a big deal,” said Yakemchuk.
St. John Ambulance agrees.
The agency has recently awarded the entire City of Edmonton Transit Peace Officer section a life-saving award. The honour recognizes the selfless actions of the 74 officers who have used their naloxone kits and First Aid and CPR training to save lives in 371 overdose intervention incidents in Edmonton from November 2019 to March 2021.
Peace Officers don’t carry firearms. They handle matters that shouldn’t require police, but that doesn’t mean their lives are stress free. Yakemchuk doesn’t count statistics. Nevertheless, in the last seven years since he’s joined the section, he has seen an increase in dangerous drugs.
He has learned to spot the overdose signs in seconds and respond without judgment or questions. If someone is shaking and twitching, it’s most likely methamphetamines. Most of the time, it’s fentanyl, a drug that slows everything down—heart, lungs, all functions of the body.
“They want to help”
Superintendent Rico Page said: “People who become Peace Officers do so because they want to help. We can’t solve the deeper issues, but we can step up and do what needs to be done to help keep people alive. Personally, it’s like the old serenity prayer—recognizing the difference between the things you can change and the things you can’t.“
On Monday, August 16, City Council formally acknowledged the work of the transit Peace Officers in earning the St. John Ambulance award.
Mayor Don Iveson said: “I would like to personally congratulate and thank each and every Peace Officer who continues to represent our city with integrity and with compassion. We need to continue working together to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens have access to the support and medical intervention they require, and our TPOs are an important part of this response.”
Editor’s note: the pic at the top of the post shows Peace Officer Matt Yakemchuk at Churchill Station on August 16, 2021. Here’s more information about transit peace officers.