Through a paramedic’s eyes: Trumbull County’s opioid epidemic

In Trumbull County, there have been a total of 114 possible overdose deaths compared to 107 last year

Eric Kellam, Warren MedStar paramedic

WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – With more than a month until the end of 2017, health experts say Trumbull County is on the verge of another record-breaking year when it comes to overdoses. There’s a medical response to all of those overdoses and it’s taking a toll on paramedics.

With his finger controlling the siren and his other hand holding the wheel, Eric Kellam is urgently headed to a medical call.

“I’ve been a paramedic for five years now,” he said.

Kellam has only been working at MedStar in Warren for about six months.

“You save who you can, you do the best that you can, and you just pray for a good outcome but there’s a lot of times where you do what you can and that’s just not enough,” Kellam said.

He guesses he’s given the overdose reversal drug naloxone anywhere from 50 to 60 times in his short time at MedStar.

“Sometimes we bring these people back, they look at us and they say, ‘Thank you for bringing me back. That was stupid, I shouldn’t have done it.’ Okay, do me a favor. Next time, don’t do it again,” Kellam said. “That’s the biggest thing you can do to thank me for doing my job is don’t let me come pick you up again.”

It’s been a rough year for Trumbull County.

“It tears at your heartstrings, it really does,” Kellam said.

Over 1,100 overdoses so far — 61 of them deadly — with another 53 waiting to be confirmed through toxicology results. That’s a total of 114 possible overdose deaths compared to 107 last year.

“It really does get to you and you’ve gotta brush it aside. You can’t let it wear you down,” Kellam said.

Kathy Parrilla, with the Trumbull County Combined Health District, said EMS is called every day, multiple times a day.

“A shoutout to all of our first responders in Trumbull County because they are an extremely dedicated group of people.”

Kellam said that’s just what paramedics are taught to do.

“We take that oath to do no harm and to always care for those that can’t care for themselves, to do the right thing, so we keep coming back and we keep doing it over and over again.”

So Kellam will keep answering the call and in the process, saving lives, too.


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