The Lifeguard app is designed to help people using drugs get help if they overdose. (Black Press Media files)

The Lifeguard app is designed to help people using drugs get help if they overdose. (Black Press Media files)

‘Lifeguard’ app saves overdosing B.C. man’s life, twice

Phone app gives people who use drugs a ‘chance of survival,’ said BCEHS director Neil Lilley

A White Rock man was confused to hear pounding on his door in the early morning hours of Nov. 19, 2020.

His befuddlement must have grown when he opened it to find several firefighters standing outside. They told the man they had been dispatched to the house because someone was in medical distress.

The resident was convinced they had the wrong address and told them so.

But the White Rock firefighters insisted they were at the right location and that someone inside needed their help.

The man, who was renting a basement suite in the house from a family member, allowed the firefighters inside to search the house, where they found a young man inside his bedroom, unconscious and barely breathing.

Curiously, nobody from the house had phoned for medical assistance, nor, for that matter, did they have any clue their family member had overdosed on fentanyl and was clinging to life.

Rowan Buffett – an alias for a man whose identity Peace Arch News has agreed not to reveal – is sharing his story of survival as a way to encourage others who use substances to download and use the Lifeguard phone application.

Lifeguard uses GPS tracking and user-input information to alert firefighters and paramedics when someone appears to be overdosing. The app asks the user to input their name, location, and what substance they’re using. The app then kick-starts a timer that finishes with an alarm. If the user doesn’t stop the alarm, paramedics are dispatched to the location.

Buffett, who’s in his 20s, says he is alive because of the app, which has saved him not once, but twice.

On that November day, Buffett smoked fentanyl as a way to self-medicate because of severe pain in his leg. Although he’d had negative experiences with fentanyl in the past, it was one of the few drugs he could get his hands on that would give him comfort.

After smoking, he blacked out. The next thing he remembers, he told PAN, was waking up in the hallway surrounded by five firefighters.

“It didn’t take long until I realized what happened,” Buffett said. “I talked to (the firefighters) and I think they were kind of aware the app called them, but they had never had that happen before.”

Paramedics arrived on scene shortly after, and first responders saved Buffett’s life by administering Naloxone. He was taken to hospital as a precaution.

“It was much more traumatic for (my family) at the time. I just woke up and everything’s fine for me, but they experienced the whole thing,” Buffett said.

RELATED:Lifeguard’ app launches as a made-in-B.C. solution to help prevent overdose deaths

A few months later, it happened again.

On Jan. 9, firefighters and paramedics received a similar call to the same address. This time, Buffett wasn’t breathing. Again, his family had no idea he was in medical distress.

“Because it was late at night and early in the morning, if I didn’t have the app, I’m pretty much positive I wouldn’t have survived,” Buffett said.

The app, which was launched in May 2020, was recommended to Buffett by Sources manager of substance use services George Passmore.

When the app was brought to Buffett’s attention, he said he didn’t intend to use it.

“I just thought this maybe will come in handy or I will be able to show somebody else. It just seemed like a good idea for an app, I guess,” Buffett said.

His second overdose was the push Buffett needed to seek treatment.

“Somebody said at one point, the app could have not worked. And after the second time, it’s just getting a bit ridiculous. I can’t keep doing that because it’s so dangerous,” he said.

“I’ve been good since then.”

The drug overdose crisis killed 1,716 people B.C. in 2020, making it the deadliest year of the overdose crisis in the province. Some of the deceased were close friends of Buffett.

Buffett said he’s willing to share his story as a way to encourage people to use the app, or to share details about the app with a friend or family member who uses substances.

“I used it every single time. It wasn’t much of a burden,” Buffett said. “It’s a small inconvenience for the possible good that it does. I hope people will realize that.”

White Rock fire Chief Ed Wolfe told PAN that calls from the app go directly to dispatch. The information about the call is not provided to police.

In Buffett’s case, someone was available to open the door for firefighters and paramedics. If they were to encounter a locked door, Wolfe said firefighters have authority to enter by other means.

“It’s very valuable. It’s essentially a life-saving piece,” Wolfe said of the app.

Buffett’s story drew an emotional response from Lifeguard founder Jeff Hardy, who also lives in White Rock.

“Honestly, I’m going to cry,” Hardy said. “That’s exactly what it was made for, exactly. I’m proud, honoured, and I’m happy that the gentleman is alive and is in treatment. I couldn’t be happier to hear that…. and it’s a White Rock guy.”

Hardy said Buffett’s story is an “unbelievable testimonial” for the app.

“That’s the best one we have, to be honest with you.”

According to BC Emergency Health Services, as of Feb. 28 there have been a total of 3,705 unique Lifeguard app users, and 30,113 all-time sessions. To date, Lifeguard usage has prompted 60 emergency responder calls and 14 overdose reversals.

No deaths have occurred during the use of Lifeguard.

Told of Buffett’s story, BCEHS senior provincial executive director and head of dispatch operations Neil Lilley, who assisted in developing the Lifeguard app, said he was at a loss for words.

“I’ll be honest, the hairs are standing on the back of my neck,” Lilley said. “To get that feedback from you, and to know that not only did it save somebody’s life on two occasions, but that it’s given the encouragement to get some treatment as well, it’s just amazing,” Lilley said.

More than three years ago, Lilley was approached by Hardy about the app. Since then, Lilley has been working with Lifeguard, which is directly connected into BCEHS 911 system, and is an executive sponsor of the project.

“I just want everybody that uses drugs alone to realize that it’s not safe. Anything can happen to them. (If) they download the Lifeguard application and have it on their phone, they have a chance of survival,” Lilley said.

Information about the Lifeguard app and how to download it can be found at https://lifeguarddh.com/

People who are seeking substance use treatment can contact Sources at 604-538-2522 or email susservices@sourcesbc.ca. People can also contact White Rock Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT) clinic at 604-541-6844.



aaron.hinks@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

B.C. overdosesDrugswhite rock

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society communications officer Brianna van de Wijngaard reflects on World Water Day March 22. (Photo submitted)
DOWN TO EARTH: World Water Day means something different for everyone

This year’s World Water Day theme was Valuing Water

Williams Lake Cycling Club president Shawn Lewis (from left), Jeremy Stoward of New Path Forestry, WLCC Boitanio Bike Park director Andrew Hutchinson accept a cheque from Williams Lake and District Credit Union investment specialist Abigail King. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake Cycling Club gets bike park donation to bolster upgrades, maintenance

Plans are to complete three rideable lines each year, he added

Forestry Ink columnist Jim Hilton. (File photo)
FOREST INK: Credit, COVID and climate crises facing the world

Concerning COVID, Mr. Carney feels we have had the proper response by showing solidarity

Columnist David Zirnhelt’s grandsons practice some fun roping on his granddaughter at the family ranch. (David ZIrnhelt photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
RANCH MUSINGS: Roping, is that an essential skill for a ranch hand?

We all know someone who has had a digit reducing accident while roping

School District board members discuss business at a regular board meeting prior to the pandemic. (Angie Mindus/Williams Lake Tribune file photo)
Ministry of Education gives special shout out to School District 27 at start of Education Week

District board and administration recognized for creating outdoor learning spaces

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Most Read