The Narcan Story Slam: Featuring Matt Tice

  • Matt Tice sharing his story at the Narcan Story Slam
    Matt Tice sharing his story at the Narcan Story Slam

My name is Matt Tice, and I’m the Practice Clinical Director of Pathways to Housing PA. I’ve spent much of the last 3 years training dozens people on overdose prevention and reversal given the nature of my work. I’ve helped build a program designed to support folks coming from long term homelessness, opioid use, and major trauma to transition into their own apartments with no preconditions. I work with a group of incredible committed folks who fight every day supporting people’s survival. Even in all that I’d never had to do a reversal myself.

This story is about the first time I used naloxone. It’s about my own direct encounter with death and resurrection. That really is what naloxone does. It takes a person from the direct trajectory of death’s doorstep and does an about face. Because I see naloxone as a means of resurrection I have been training members of my faith community on reversal and helping equip them. One cold winter day earlier this year I met with a friend from my church who asked if she could swap out an expired dose for another. I took her single nasal dose and shared two of my own that I always carry on me. I can’t leave the house and feel comfortable without it. Phone, keys, wallet, naloxone I incant as I pat my pockets headed out the door every day.

“It’ll be fine,” I hoped anxiously handing over my doses to my friend who lived in Kensington. I took hers and without thinking much more threw it in my glove compartment, and drove to the Sunday meeting where we meet for church.

Later on my way home I was coming up Germantown Avenue when I saw a man sprawled out on the street with several people standing nearby. He laid on his back arms outstretched almost in a cross position. I pulled over instantly remembering the “expired naloxone” I’d casually thrown in my car and ran to him. Apparently he’d been driving when he slumped over and ran into the curb unconscious. An angelic group of 8-9 black women all wearing red with bright red lipstick on had apparently been in the house just where his car landed and they pulled him from his vehicle to the street. Later they told me they were having a bachelorette party. This gentleman on the ground was turning blue and not breathing. I crouched over him and told him I was going to give him Narcan and rubbed my knuckles on his chest. Nothing. I held my own breath, gave him naloxone and waited. I can’t tell you how long it was but then he took a tiny breath, and another, and another.

Eventually EMS showed up and loaded him into an ambulance. The police asked for my name and said they’d give the man my contact info if he wanted to follow up. I never got a call.  I don’t know his path, I don’t know what’s happening in his life. I do know, full of adrenalin and activating my training, I had a chance to help him in the moment. That can feel unresolved but that’s where we are. People keep suffering quietly. We look the other way. If I am going to keep doing this I have to hold on to the life and not the uncertainty.

After the ambulance left someone standing by asked if I was a doctor. “No, I’m a social worker who helps train people how to do what I just did. I never did it in real life before though.”

I find myself attracted to the thin places. Places where the physical and mystical get close enough to touch. I tend to run to uncertainty rather than from it. Simultaneously I love spending time with people others may feel unsure about. Those who get left at the margins. These are my people.  That gentleman on the street was gone. Headed toward death. But a group of women in red and a medication bent on resurrection said “No, not now, not today.”

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