AKRON — Aug. 23, 2015: Marie Burger overdosed on Eva Avenue in Akron.
April 11, 2018: Marie Burger came face to face with the paramedics who saved her.
“Not everyone gets the opportunity to be revived with Narcan,” Burger said. “And not everyone gets a second chance at life.”
That second chance came when Burger said she found herself helpless, in the arms of strangers.
“I can tell you that I injected the heroin,” said Burger. “I woke up and there was a whole bunch of big guys around me. I couldn’t catch my breath for about 20 minutes. It was an overwhelming burning sensation in my eyes. I asked the paramedics what that was and they weren’t able to explain that feeling.”
“My theory is I was able to see the lord,” Burger said as she fought back the tears. “I believe the lord sent me back here for a purpose. “
Burger said that overdose, her only overdose while battling her addition to prescription drugs and heroin, was the turning point to change direction and begin embracing recovery.
And that journey included an opportunity to thank the people responsible for administering Narcan during her overdose. The Summit County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board marked the week of April 9th as a time to recognize frontline workers and first responders who face the opiate epidemic.
“It’s important for them to know that their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed and that we can recover.”
With a fruit basket in hand, and her grandmother by her side, Burger walked into Akron’s fire training facility on Emmitt Road. Moments later, she met three out of four Akron firefighters and paramedics who responded to the Eva Ave. home on Aug. 23, 2015.
- Adam Lovell
- Robert Alestack
- Dustin Muehlfeld
Each given a hug and a “thank you.”
“The only people I’ve seen that I’ve revived with Narcan have been people who overdosed again,” said Lovell. "So it’s really nice to see someone that has learned from their situation, made the best from their situation.”
But for the three first responders, a “thank you” wasn’t necessary – but appreciated.
“It’s not about ‘thank you’s,’” said Lovell. “It’s about progress.”
There was plenty of progress to share.
Burger shared her story of survival, the gratitude she had for the men who saved her and the recovery journey she continues to embrace.
“I work as a recovery coach for Oriana House,” Burger said. “I’m also a part of the Akron Recovery Court Team….so now I work at the court where I started.”
Burger is involved with the peer support program at the Akron Recovery Court with Akron Municipal Court Judge Jon Oldham.
Burger said she’s now focused on helping others with her story and spread the message that “heroin isn’t the end of the road.”
In 2017, the ADM Board teamed up with “safety forces and treatment agencies to deploy Quick Response Teams (QRTs) in communities hit hard by overdoses.” The teams include a police officer, medic and counselor who visit the homes of people who have experienced an overdose. They share information, support and treatment options.
Of the ten jurisdictions that operate quick response teams, more than 2,980 visits were completed. ADM Board officials said “330 individuals chose to get help after a QRT visit” in Summit County.
The ADM Board is encouraging others to share their messages of gratitude online using the hashtag #330responds.
More information can be found at www.admboard.org.