‘I Owe ‘Em My Life': Officers Save Addicts Who Once Were Arrested

On a night last June, 30-year-old Brian Frainey lay on the pavement in the middle of the street at 143rd and Harlem.

He had overdosed on heroin.

Cook County Sheriff’s Police officer Sean Murphy came upon Frainey in the street, where an off-duty paramedic and an Illinois State Police trooper were trying to save his life.

"He appeared to be lifeless," Murphy said. "No signs of life whatsoever."

When the officer arrived, Frainey had already been given a dose of Narcan, the heroin antidote which is delivered via a nasal inhaler. But seeing no effect, Murphy gave him another dose, and a third one after that.

Slowly, Frainey began to revive.

"Within minutes, he came around as if nothing happened," the officer said. "We had the perfect storm of perfect responders."

For Frainey, that perfect storm stands in stark contrast to what he would have been just a few years ago: almost certainly, one more heroin overdose death.

"I want to thank them wholeheartedly," he told NBC 5. "I owe 'em my life - they saved me!"

For the Cook County Sheriff’s police, it’s been a busy year. Since January of 2018, they’ve had 28 Narcan saves. The last one was just three weeks ago.

By and large, those overdose victims were not subject to prosecution. Indeed, the Sheriff’s office wants people to know that they don’t arrest the heroin users they rescue. In fact, Illinois has a so-called "good Samaritan law," which says neither a person summoning aid nor the party who overdoses will be charged with possession of small amounts of heroin or other opiate drugs.

"A death is a death," Murphy said.  "As a police officer, you don’t want to see that!"

The larger issue, of course, is that heroin is addictive, deadly, cheap and easy to find.

"There is reason to be afraid of it," Frainey admits. "They’re putting Fentanyl in it, and now they’re putting Xanax in it as well."

NBC 5 showed Frainey video from officer Murphy’s bodycam, documenting his rescue.

"It feels strange to see that and see myself just basically dead," Frainey said. "Pitiful actually … it’s disgusting. It’s not who I, don’t want to be remembered for that!"

But he’s been using heroin for 10 years.

On the night in question, Frainey said a dispute with his wife led to a moment snorting heroin in a shopping center parking lot near the spot where he was found.

"I thought because I didn’t inject it, or use a lot of it, it was going to be fine," he said. "You can’t tell when it’s going to happen or when you’ll feel the effects, or how intense they’ll be."

The heroin which triggered his overdose cost just $10.

There is no doubting Narcan’s status as something of a miracle drug, but in Frainey’s case, there’s a dark side to his incredible second chance—he estimates he’s been saved with Narcan, "probably 15 or 20 times." But he insisted he wanted to stop that cyle.

"I want to try and salvage what I can of my life," he said.  "It’s definitely a flaw in character. You can’t handle life so you need this crutch to comfort you. That’s pretty weak!"

Last month, the Cook County Board voted to purchase another 2,800 Narcan kits — 5,600 doses — for use by the Sheriff’s police. A spokesman said that will enable the Sheriff’s office to equip basically everyone who comes into contact with the public, from patrol officers, to courthouse personnel, even those performing evictions.

Officer Murphy said the fact that Frainey had been the beneficiary of so many second chances was irrelevant in his mind.

"Fifteen, 16, 17, maybe the 20th time he does turn around," he said.  "It’s not for me to judge, on the site at that point, at 143rd and Harlem."

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