Anothy First, a SWAT team paramedic, is an expert in tactical medicine—the police version of battlefield triage. When the bullets are raining down and the choppers thudding above, First is the guy who’s squatting over the casualties, stanching wounds and compressing chests. He once dived into a lake to save a man whose leg had been severed by a boat rotor. Another time, he pulled a teenager out of a car crash and field-diagnosed a brain injury before the kid hemorrhaged to death. “Nothing makes you feel as good as actually saving a life,” First says. “It’s very rare. But when it does happen, you’re walking on air.”
First, 46, is also the chief medical training officer for the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and in June, 2014, he was charged with teaching every cop in the city how to use the lifesaving opioid antidote drug naloxone. A spike in opioid-related deaths had led Oklahoma’s state government to outfit its law enforcement agencies with the antidote, also known by its trade name Narcan; First would be the educator. In his classes, he had students unbox naloxone syringes, attach little conical atomizers to the tips, and then, one by one, get down on the floor and jam the business end up the nostril of a supine CPR mannequin. With this medicine they could now revive Tulsans who have overdosed on opioid drugs like oxycodone, fentanyl, hydrocodone, and heroin.
In one of those early classes, a grizzled 30-plus year veteran of the force looked on as First gave his spiel. “More overdoses are happening now than ever before,” First said. “We are the worst in the state. And nationally we’re pretty bad too. It’s worse than you think out there, and when it happens, there’s no reason why we can’t get involved and do something about it.”
As bureaucracies will, the state required all officers to give anonymous feedback on the class. First was skimming through that first batch of surveys when saw it. Vehement, angry, laced with profanity, the veteran cop (First was sure) had written a diatribe. In essence, it said: I’m not helping these fucking dopers. I’ve been chasing them for 35 years. They can all die.