LifeLong Medical Care’s Street Medicine Team
Blog Contribution by Elaine Herscher
Senior Editor, LifeLong Medical Care
It started out as a visit to the Wood Street homeless encampment under the 580/880 freeway interchange in West Oakland to help a patient get admitted to the hospital.
But just as the LifeLong Street Medicine Team arrived at the encampment, Community Health Worker Jose Garcia noticed a man lying on the ground with a small group around him. When Nurse Practitioner Jenny Tsang examined the man, in his late 50s or early 60s, she saw that the skin on his face and arms had turned purple. He had a pulse and was breathing but was unresponsive. Garcia called 911.
The man’s friends told the team, which included Associate Clinical Social Worker Kaytee Stengel, that the man had just injected drugs, a likely combination of methamphetamine and fentanyl, an extremely powerful opioid 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
His friends had already administered two doses of intranasal Narcan (naloxone) nasal spray, a drug that reverses the effects of opioids. They tried to prop him up. They’d even poured water on him. But he hadn’t responded.
“I gave him a third dose of intranasal Narcan and waited a few minutes, and then gave him an injection of intramuscular Narcan,” Tsang said. In 20 seconds, his skin color started to look more normal, and he began to talk. Meanwhile, Garcia heard that the paramedics were outside the encampment. He jumped in the van, found them, and led them in. The man was taken to the emergency department for observation and released.
Tsang said the man was well known to the team, which had been treating him for wounds on a weekly or twice weekly basis. She said he isn’t a habitual fentanyl user, and when someone without a tolerance uses the drug, the result can be an instant life-threatening loss of consciousness.
“He probably would have died if the team hadn’t arrived when they did,” Tsang said. “His breathing was really shallow. He wasn’t getting oxygen. I’m glad that we were there and that he was okay in the end…and I wish he would stop doing that.”
This is one of those things where Street Medicine is really well positioned to be responsive to these kinds of events – Wythe
Street Medicine Program Manager Ryan Wythe said everyone on the Street Medicine team carries Narcan and all receive overdose trainings. They also provide Narcan to the homeless population.
Tsang has been at LifeLong for just nine months and had previously been a nurse practitioner at a family clinic in Napa taking care of farm workers and their families. She said she’s finding street medicine very rewarding. And although this was the first time she’s saved someone’s life, she hopes it’s the last time she has to.
LifeLong Medical Care’s Street Medicine team is supported by Alameda County Health Care for the Homeless.
LifeLong’s Partnership with True Vine Ministries to help FEMA/CalOES Administer the COVID-19 vaccine
Throughout the month of March, Lifelong Medical Care has partnered with True Vine Ministries in West Oakland to help FEMA/CalOES deliver Covid-19 vaccinations. With only 48-hours’ notice to get the first weekend vaccination mobile-site up and running at the West Oakland Senior Center on March 7-9, LifeLong staff launched community outreach, established a mini-call center for appointments, volunteered time on-site, and helped get over 1,100 people vaccinated in the first weekend. On March 12, LifeLong responded to a partnership request to work with True Vine Ministries on 4-day per week FEMA/CalOES mobile clinics which are administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine through the first weekend of April.
Outreach efforts have been aimed at the West Oakland neighborhood where the African American community has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Since beginning this effort, which also includes scheduling and site administration, 5,512 people have been vaccinated at clinics operating Friday through Monday. Over the last couple of weekends, the population vaccinated has averaged 35% Asian, 27% Black/African American, 20% White and 17% Latino/Hispanic. (These numbers only represent groups totaling 16% or more of the total number of people who have come to be vaccinated.)
Images left to right: LifeLong Medical Care CEO David B. Vliet gets his work assignment from Julia Kelm, Senior Project Manager, New Initiatives at the first FEMA/CalOES vaccine clinic in West Oakland. The exhuberant LifeLong staff: Chief Strategy Officer Julie Sinai; Deputy Chief Clinical Operations Kate Lewis; Covid Testing Assistant Veda Ogbe; and Medical Assistant Minimahe Young, LifeLong Medical Care Community Health Worker Karla Nunez ready to greet community members coming to get vaccinated