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Posts Tagged "struggling"

9Jul

B.C. harm-reduction sites, doctors struggling with new type of overdose

by admin


Sarah Blyth is director of the Overdose Prevention Society in Vancouver.


HANDOUT / PNG

Doctors and frontline health-care workers say they are responding to an increasing number of overdoses involving opioids contaminated with benzodiazepines, restricted substances normally used to treat anxiety.

Benzodiazepines don’t respond to emergency treatments such as naloxone, or Narcan, which usually temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Instead, drug users are left groggy, disoriented and suffering from memory loss. That means users may remain unconscious even after naloxone is administered, according to Overdose Prevention Society director Sarah Blyth.

“It’s way more challenging for all frontline workers because a person will overdose, you’ll give them Narcan, which normally brings them back into consciousness and fully awake and alert … but this means you give them Narcan and they still need to be monitored for most of the day,” said Blyth.

“It adds to everything. It adds to the crisis. It’s another level of stress.”

Blyth said the prevention society saw 16 such overdoses in a 24-hour period last weekend.

Dr. Keith Ahamad, a researcher at the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, said these overdoses are becoming more common at St. Paul’s Hospital.

“We’ve been hearing about it for months, but over the past couple of weeks the clinical presentations have been much more significant,” said Ahamad.

Opioids and benzodiazepines are both sedatives, but they work along different neurological pathways. That means using them together brings a magnified risk of overdose and different withdrawal syndromes, making it more challenging to treat. Health-care workers don’t know why the two drugs are being cut together.

“We’ve warned people using opioids to not take benzodiazepines because we know the combination can cause overdoses,” said Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, a medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health.

Samples of contaminated drugs taken earlier this year showed traces of etizolam, which is chemically related to benzodiazepine. Since then, Lysyshyn said stronger, illicitly-produced benzodiazepine variants have appeared.

“The illegal drug supply will produce dangerous drugs,” he said. “This is the last type of compound we’d want to see mixed with opioids, but here it is.”

Drugs cut with these contaminants have been reported in other B.C. communities, including Powell River this week. But the scope of the problem is unknown because benzodiazepine test strips do not detect etizolam.

“You see a little bit of it, and all of a sudden it’s in everything,” said Blyth.

Vancouver police seized just 47 grams of benzodiazepines in all of 2018, none of which were etizolam. But over 6,100 grams of seized drugs were classified as “unknown” and were not tested or identified, according to data obtained through a freedom of information request.

Medications to reverse benzodiazepine-caused overdoses exist, but are dangerous to use and restricted to hospitals, Lysyshyn said.

“It’s not easily administered like naloxone is, so it’s not the kind of thing we can make widely available,” he said.

Ahamad said the contaminated drugs makes treating withdrawal and addiction symptoms more complicated because users may develop a physical dependence to benzodiazepines without realizing it.

“We’re going to be hamstrung in our ability to treat people with our classic treatment (methods) if the drugs that are being used are of a different class,” said Ahamad.

B.C.’s overdose crisis killed 1,514 people last year. Most of those deaths involved fentanyl, but over 16 per cent involved “other” drugs including benzodiazepines, over-the-counter medications, and other drugs, according to coroner data.

Blyth said these overdoses are the consequence of a toxic drug supply and urged government to make responding to the crisis a central campaign issue in the coming federal election.

“We want to make sure people are safe, but we also want to make sure we’re getting somewhere, someday, where we’re not in this situation anymore,” she said.

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6Dec

Students fold 2,000 paper cranes for woman struggling with leukemia

by admin

The classroom was quiet when Alison Lockhart arrived on Thursday afternoon.

Twenty-eight students were bent over small squares of patterned paper, their fingers moving quickly to fold the thin sheets into paper cranes.

Just 300 to go.

“It was amazing to see,” said Lockhart.

The paper cranes — 2,000 in all — were folded for Lockhart’s daughter, Amy Lee Croft, as she battles leukemia.

Inspired by a Postmedia story about Lockhart’s campaign to collect 1,000 paper cranes for her daughter, the Grade 5/6 class at Brantford Elementary in Burnaby put a lesson about empathy into practice.

“It’s something I’ll never forget,” said student teacher Wilson Chu.

In November, Chu, a 23-year-old Simon Fraser University student was teaching a novel study about Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes when the classroom teacher, Mick Cole, read the article about Lockhart’s campaign.

The Victoria woman was hoping to collect donations and well wishes for Croft, 32, as she recovered from a blood stem cell transplant at Vancouver General Hospital. She planned to write the wishes on origami paper and fold them into cranes, although she’d only received 89.

Cole’s class had already folded about 600 paper birds as a team-building exercise, using an assembly line as they became quicker and quicker.


Students at Brantford Elementary school in Burnaby have presented Alison Lockhart with more than 2000 paper cranes.

Jason Payne /

PNG

Cole and Chu reached out to Lockhart before asking the students if they’d like to donate their cranes to her cause. When the group of 10 and 11-year-olds learned about Croft, they kicked into high gear, producing 1,000 more cranes in just a few days. They began bringing in paper from home and teaching friends to make the origami birds. They collected them in baskets of 100 at the front of the classroom.

“We try to teach the students to think outside the four walls of the school,” said Cole. “Suddenly, those cranes had a purpose.”

When they learned Lockhart would be coming to pick up the cranes on Thursday, the class made a new goal — 2,000 cranes.

It takes Chu about two-and-a-half minutes to make one crane. He estimated that many of the students could produce them even faster. Together, they folded the last 300 cranes in under an hour.

“I told the students that these cranes are magical because they’re full of hope,” said Lockhart after receiving the cranes.

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Croft was diagnosed with acutelymphoblasticleukemia at Victoria General Hospital on March 9. She was flown to VGH to begin chemotherapy two hours later.

Since then, she’s been in and out of hospital. She and her husband Joshua have rented a suite near VGH.

On Nov. 7, Croft had a blood stem cell transplant after three rounds of radiation. She must now remain in isolation at the hospital until her immune system begins to recover. It’s likely she’ll be in the hospital over Christmas.

Lockhart was looking for a way to encourage her daughter when she attended a reunion with a group of friends she had met during an exchange to Japan when she was 16. The event caused her to recall the origami cranes she received as a gift while studying abroad.

“A group of five Japanese elementary school students presented me with 1,000 origami cranes, strung on thread,” she said.

She’s treasured the paper birds since then. When the thread broke, she put them in a large bowl on her coffee table, where they stayed through Croft’s childhood.

Traditionally, it was believed that if someone folded 1,000 paper cranes, their wish would come true. The birds became a symbol of hope and healing after a Japanese girl, Sadako Sasaki, started folding cranes after contracting leukemia following the A-bombing of Hiroshima during the Second World War. As the story goes, Sasaki died before completing the cranes, but her friends finished the project to honour her memory.


Alison Lockhart is asking people to send well wishes to her daughter, Amy Lee Croft, as she battles leukemia. She plans to fold the messages into paper cranes.

Submitted photo /

PNG

Lockhart created a Facebook fundraiser called 1,000 origami cranes for Amy Lee. So far, she’s collected just over $5,000 to help her daughter with expenses as she continues treatment in Vancouver. She’s asking anyone who donates to include a message that she can transcribe onto origami paper and then fold into a crane.


Students at Brantford Elementary school in Burnaby presented Alison Lockhart (pictured) with more than 2000 paper cranes.

Jason Payne /

PNG

She’s also asking people to consider becoming a blood stem cell donor by registering with Canadian Blood Services.

The mother plans to take a photograph of the 2,000 cranes to show to Croft. She’ll also read the well wishes the students penned to her daughter. Over Christmas, she hopes to string all the cranes on a chain to hang in Croft’s home when she is eventually released from hospital.

“I feel filled with hope right now,” she said.

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twitter.com/glendaluymes




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10Nov

Family of VIU student who died urge anyone struggling to reach out

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Spencer Stone Shutes is being remembered by family as a bright and caring person.



Spencer Stone Shutes is being remembered by family as a bright and caring person.


FAMILY PHOTO / Times Colonist

The 21-year-old Vancouver Island University student who died after falling from the fifth and top floor of the school’s library on Monday is being remembered by family as a bright and caring person who was a whiz with computers.

Spencer Stone Shutes was studying computer science and had just completed the first year of his electrical apprenticeship at the Nanaimo university, said his 24-year-old brother, Brandon Stone.

“For 21 years, he was my best friend,” Stone said.

Shutes loved his family and his Russian blue cat, Simba.

Shutes’ nickname was “fact-man,” his brother said, because he retained an encyclopedic knowledge about so many topics.

Shutes devoured documentaries and loved watching the X Files and Top Gear. He graduated from Wellington Secondary School in Nanaimo in 2015 with top marks. Stone said any suggestion of skipping school was politely turned down by his younger brother.

Shutes, Stone and Stone’s girlfriend all worked for Shaw Cable.

“He was very good at that job and well-loved among his team,” Stone said.

Stone, a musician, sometimes played gigs at Longwood Brew Pub and one of his favourite photos of Shutes is from a night he watched the gig alongside their mother.

Shutes, wearing a button-up shirt and wire-frame glasses, is smiling and raising his glass. Stone said that’s how he’ll always remember his brother.

Shutes lived with his mother and supported her financially, as she is on permanent disability.

Stone has started a Go Fund Me donation page to help their mother financially. “He would have wanted her to be taken care of, that was always at the forefront of his mind,” Stone said.

Shutes was busy with work, school and looking after their mom, and there was no indication he was struggling, Stone said.

“I never thought that this would happen and having it happen first-hand shows me it’s so important for every person to know you do have people who care about you and you do have people who you can reach out to.

“If you’re feeling overwhelmed beyond belief and you feel like you have no options, just give yourself an hour, talk to someone on the phone. Because those moments can pass. Just seek out somebody before you do something that you can’t take back.”

The B.C. Coroners Service is investigating the death. No foul play is suspected.

Coroners Service spokesman Andy Watson could not confirm the cause of death, saying it’s early in the investigation. “We look to determine who died, when, where and by what means. We’re in the early stages of the investigation.”

A date has yet to be set for a funeral.

In a statement, Vancouver Island University thanked the school community “for coming together to support each other as we navigate through the impacts of the tragic loss that occurred on Monday.”

The school is providing counselling to anyone who witnessed the death or anyone who is struggling with the news.

Shutes’ family gave the university permission to identify him.

“Our heartfelt thoughts are with his family and friends and everyone who has been impacted,” the university said in a statement. “At times like this, it is important that we continue to come together with kindness and respect and provide support to each other, as we come to terms with what has happened. We are heartened that VIU and the broader community continues to support Spencer’s family and friends and each other in so many different and compassionate ways.”

kderosa@timescolonist.com

• The family’s donation page is at GoFundMe.com; search for Spencer Stone Shutes.

• Anyone who is struggling can access around-the-clock support through the Vancouver Island Crisis Line at 1-888-494-3888.


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10Nov

Family of VIU student who died urge anyone struggling to reach out

by admin

Spencer Stone Shutes is being remembered by family as a bright and caring person.



Spencer Stone Shutes is being remembered by family as a bright and caring person.


FAMILY PHOTO / Times Colonist

The 21-year-old Vancouver Island University student who died after falling from the fifth and top floor of the school’s library on Monday is being remembered by family as a bright and caring person who was a whiz with computers.

Spencer Stone Shutes was studying computer science and had just completed the first year of his electrical apprenticeship at the Nanaimo university, said his 24-year-old brother, Brandon Stone.

“For 21 years, he was my best friend,” Stone said.

Shutes loved his family and his Russian blue cat, Simba.

Shutes’ nickname was “fact-man,” his brother said, because he retained an encyclopedic knowledge about so many topics.

Shutes devoured documentaries and loved watching the X Files and Top Gear. He graduated from Wellington Secondary School in Nanaimo in 2015 with top marks. Stone said any suggestion of skipping school was politely turned down by his younger brother.

Shutes, Stone and Stone’s girlfriend all worked for Shaw Cable.

“He was very good at that job and well-loved among his team,” Stone said.

Stone, a musician, sometimes played gigs at Longwood Brew Pub and one of his favourite photos of Shutes is from a night he watched the gig alongside their mother.

Shutes, wearing a button-up shirt and wire-frame glasses, is smiling and raising his glass. Stone said that’s how he’ll always remember his brother.

Shutes lived with his mother and supported her financially, as she is on permanent disability.

Stone has started a Go Fund Me donation page to help their mother financially. “He would have wanted her to be taken care of, that was always at the forefront of his mind,” Stone said.

Shutes was busy with work, school and looking after their mom, and there was no indication he was struggling, Stone said.

“I never thought that this would happen and having it happen first-hand shows me it’s so important for every person to know you do have people who care about you and you do have people who you can reach out to.

“If you’re feeling overwhelmed beyond belief and you feel like you have no options, just give yourself an hour, talk to someone on the phone. Because those moments can pass. Just seek out somebody before you do something that you can’t take back.”

The B.C. Coroners Service is investigating the death. No foul play is suspected.

Coroners Service spokesman Andy Watson could not confirm the cause of death, saying it’s early in the investigation. “We look to determine who died, when, where and by what means. We’re in the early stages of the investigation.”

A date has yet to be set for a funeral.

In a statement, Vancouver Island University thanked the school community “for coming together to support each other as we navigate through the impacts of the tragic loss that occurred on Monday.”

The school is providing counselling to anyone who witnessed the death or anyone who is struggling with the news.

Shutes’ family gave the university permission to identify him.

“Our heartfelt thoughts are with his family and friends and everyone who has been impacted,” the university said in a statement. “At times like this, it is important that we continue to come together with kindness and respect and provide support to each other, as we come to terms with what has happened. We are heartened that VIU and the broader community continues to support Spencer’s family and friends and each other in so many different and compassionate ways.”

kderosa@timescolonist.com

• The family’s donation page is at GoFundMe.com; search for Spencer Stone Shutes.

• Anyone who is struggling can access around-the-clock support through the Vancouver Island Crisis Line at 1-888-494-3888.


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