Left for dead: Opioid overdose survivor's story of hope and survival
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) - Drugs now kill more Americans than cars.
You can blame the opioid epidemic, which has even claimed the life of Nashville mayor's son.
Besides the human cost, the epidemic is a financial drain on us all and emergency responders are powerless to do anything about it.
A Tennessee couple, Ron Hiers and Carla Hiers, were left for dead on a Memphis sidewalk. The video of their heroin overdose has gone viral.
"It was humiliating, and it's sad," Carla Hiers said.
The 2016 video shows the couple passed out heroin, collapsed on the sidewalk of a busy city street as onlookers made fun of them.
"Nobody tried to do anything, CPR," Carla Hiers said. "You know -- just like scoop them off the street because they're just trash. It was embarrassing."
The moment was a low for Carla Hiers, though not her first overdose. She said she'd already overdosed three weeks before this video, both times revived by paramedics using Narcan. The medicine cancels the effects of opioids in the moment but it's not a cure for the addict.
"It doesn't mean you won't see them the next day or the next crew might see them the next shift," said Capt. Erik Gallup, Nashville Fire Department medic.
Gallup said medics are carrying more boxes of Narcan in ambulances as calls for overdoses are becoming more common, and it takes more Narcan because overdose patients are building up a tolerance to it.
"It's sad to say that, but it's just the way the world is right now," Gallup said.
This rise in demand for Narcan is increasing the price, more than doubling from $13 per dose in 2014 to $32 in 2016. That's a sharp jump from just about $1.50 a few years ago.
At this rate, the Nashville Fire Department used about $30,000 dollars worth of Narcan in 2017, funded by taxpayers. It's a cost even harder to absorb in the budgets of smaller cities, but Carla Hiers is hoping to break this trend by being one less person dependent on drugs.
"It does not fascinate me in the least the way I used to live," Carla Hiers said. "I just hate that all that time is for naught."
The 61-year old woman had been addicted for decades. Once the video of her overdose video went viral almost a year and a half ago, Carla Hiers and her husband were accepted into a treatment program for free.
They've been featured in a Time/Mic documentary as they're given and accepting treatment in separate states.
"Her experience - people need to draw from that and get every bit of information they can," said William Jamross, Addiction Campuses program director.
For the first time since her overdose, Carla Hiers returned to Tennessee for a day to share her story of hope and survival.
"If it wasn't for you all, I wouldn't be here," she said.
She credits call takers at Addiction Campuses with keeping her alive by answering the phone when she called for help.
"A high is not like you think it's gonna be because it doesn't last forever," Carla Hiers said. "You've got to come down. And it gets worse, and it gets worse. It robs you from your life. It will rob you from your freedom. It will. It has me."
Nashville Fire Department medics aren't the only ones carrying the anti-overdose drugs.
In Metro Nashville, police officers and detectives at every precinct are also equipped with kits of two doses each, costing an additional $60,000 dollars for taxpayers.