The Lifeguard app is designed to help people using drugs get help if they overdose. (Black Press Media files)

The Lifeguard app is designed to help people using drugs get help if they overdose. (Black Press Media files)

‘Lifeguard’ app saves overdosing B.C. man’s life, twice

Phone app gives people who use drugs a ‘chance of survival,’ said BCEHS director Neil Lilley

A White Rock man was confused to hear pounding on his door in the early morning hours of Nov. 19, 2020.

His befuddlement must have grown when he opened it to find several firefighters standing outside. They told the man they had been dispatched to the house because someone was in medical distress.

The resident was convinced they had the wrong address and told them so.

But the White Rock firefighters insisted they were at the right location and that someone inside needed their help.

The man, who was renting a basement suite in the house from a family member, allowed the firefighters inside to search the house, where they found a young man inside his bedroom, unconscious and barely breathing.

Curiously, nobody from the house had phoned for medical assistance, nor, for that matter, did they have any clue their family member had overdosed on fentanyl and was clinging to life.

Rowan Buffett – an alias for a man whose identity Peace Arch News has agreed not to reveal – is sharing his story of survival as a way to encourage others who use substances to download and use the Lifeguard phone application.

Lifeguard uses GPS tracking and user-input information to alert firefighters and paramedics when someone appears to be overdosing. The app asks the user to input their name, location, and what substance they’re using. The app then kick-starts a timer that finishes with an alarm. If the user doesn’t stop the alarm, paramedics are dispatched to the location.

Buffett, who’s in his 20s, says he is alive because of the app, which has saved him not once, but twice.

On that November day, Buffett smoked fentanyl as a way to self-medicate because of severe pain in his leg. Although he’d had negative experiences with fentanyl in the past, it was one of the few drugs he could get his hands on that would give him comfort.

After smoking, he blacked out. The next thing he remembers, he told PAN, was waking up in the hallway surrounded by five firefighters.

“It didn’t take long until I realized what happened,” Buffett said. “I talked to (the firefighters) and I think they were kind of aware the app called them, but they had never had that happen before.”

Paramedics arrived on scene shortly after, and first responders saved Buffett’s life by administering Naloxone. He was taken to hospital as a precaution.

“It was much more traumatic for (my family) at the time. I just woke up and everything’s fine for me, but they experienced the whole thing,” Buffett said.

RELATED:Lifeguard’ app launches as a made-in-B.C. solution to help prevent overdose deaths

A few months later, it happened again.

On Jan. 9, firefighters and paramedics received a similar call to the same address. This time, Buffett wasn’t breathing. Again, his family had no idea he was in medical distress.

“Because it was late at night and early in the morning, if I didn’t have the app, I’m pretty much positive I wouldn’t have survived,” Buffett said.

The app, which was launched in May 2020, was recommended to Buffett by Sources manager of substance use services George Passmore.

When the app was brought to Buffett’s attention, he said he didn’t intend to use it.

“I just thought this maybe will come in handy or I will be able to show somebody else. It just seemed like a good idea for an app, I guess,” Buffett said.

His second overdose was the push Buffett needed to seek treatment.

“Somebody said at one point, the app could have not worked. And after the second time, it’s just getting a bit ridiculous. I can’t keep doing that because it’s so dangerous,” he said.

“I’ve been good since then.”

The drug overdose crisis killed 1,716 people B.C. in 2020, making it the deadliest year of the overdose crisis in the province. Some of the deceased were close friends of Buffett.

Buffett said he’s willing to share his story as a way to encourage people to use the app, or to share details about the app with a friend or family member who uses substances.

“I used it every single time. It wasn’t much of a burden,” Buffett said. “It’s a small inconvenience for the possible good that it does. I hope people will realize that.”

White Rock fire Chief Ed Wolfe told PAN that calls from the app go directly to dispatch. The information about the call is not provided to police.

In Buffett’s case, someone was available to open the door for firefighters and paramedics. If they were to encounter a locked door, Wolfe said firefighters have authority to enter by other means.

“It’s very valuable. It’s essentially a life-saving piece,” Wolfe said of the app.

Buffett’s story drew an emotional response from Lifeguard founder Jeff Hardy, who also lives in White Rock.

“Honestly, I’m going to cry,” Hardy said. “That’s exactly what it was made for, exactly. I’m proud, honoured, and I’m happy that the gentleman is alive and is in treatment. I couldn’t be happier to hear that…. and it’s a White Rock guy.”

Hardy said Buffett’s story is an “unbelievable testimonial” for the app.

“That’s the best one we have, to be honest with you.”

According to BC Emergency Health Services, as of Feb. 28 there have been a total of 3,705 unique Lifeguard app users, and 30,113 all-time sessions. To date, Lifeguard usage has prompted 60 emergency responder calls and 14 overdose reversals.

No deaths have occurred during the use of Lifeguard.

Told of Buffett’s story, BCEHS senior provincial executive director and head of dispatch operations Neil Lilley, who assisted in developing the Lifeguard app, said he was at a loss for words.

“I’ll be honest, the hairs are standing on the back of my neck,” Lilley said. “To get that feedback from you, and to know that not only did it save somebody’s life on two occasions, but that it’s given the encouragement to get some treatment as well, it’s just amazing,” Lilley said.

More than three years ago, Lilley was approached by Hardy about the app. Since then, Lilley has been working with Lifeguard, which is directly connected into BCEHS 911 system, and is an executive sponsor of the project.

“I just want everybody that uses drugs alone to realize that it’s not safe. Anything can happen to them. (If) they download the Lifeguard application and have it on their phone, they have a chance of survival,” Lilley said.

Information about the Lifeguard app and how to download it can be found at https://lifeguarddh.com/

People who are seeking substance use treatment can contact Sources at 604-538-2522 or email susservices@sourcesbc.ca. People can also contact White Rock Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT) clinic at 604-541-6844.



aaron.hinks@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

B.C. overdosesDrugswhite rock

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Quesnel resident receives a shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month. (Photo credit: Cassidy Dankochik/Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
IH says COVID-19 vaccines safe despite claims of Lytton physician

Doctor makes unsubstantiated claims about serious side effects of Moderna vaccine

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
211 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

Currently, there are 875 active cases of the virus in the region

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. As of April 19, more than 230,000 doses have been administered across the Interior Health region. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
More than 230K doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered across Interior Health

A total of 220,216 first doses and 13,775 second doses have been given to residents across the B.C. Interior

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood, this includes protecting one’s home by moving equipment and other assets from these areas to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-normal spring flood season

High-streamflow advisory issued for the Cariboo Region and areas including Williams Lake, Quesnel and Prince George

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

Interior Health issued warning April 18, 2021 of crack cocaine in Penticton that looks similar to the substance above containing fentanyl. (Interior Health photo)
Interior Health warns of fentanyl contaminated crack-cocaine in Penticton

There have been recent reports of overdose associated with the use of this substance

..
Abbotsford nurse at ‘breaking point’ pleads with public to take COVID-19 seriously

Instagram post urges general population to stay home, wear a mask and get vaccinated

A native-to-B.C. wild queen bee (bombus melanopygus for those in the know) feeds on a periwinkle flower. (Submitted/Sarah Johnson, Native Bee Society of BC)
B.C.’s wild bees need messy gardens to survive

The year-long nesting period makes habitat a primary concern for wild bees

FILE – Health-care workers wave to people clapping and yelling thank you to the frontline workers during the 7 p.m.-tribute outside the Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. nurses issue plea for all to follow health orders as hospitalizations spike

Nurses worried about strain COVID-19 is having on hospital capacity, care

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Lawsuit filed last summer accused Barney Williams of verbal abuse

Former B.C. premier Christy Clark. (Black Press Media files)
Former B.C. premier to testify at money laundering hearing today

Attorney General David Eby has been added to the witness list as well

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. to table budget that’s expected to deal with COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

Robinson released a fiscal update last December that said the impact of the pandemic on B.C.’s economy was uncertain

Most Read