Charlie Smith is a volunteer EMS paramedic care provider and new medic preceptor with Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad (CARS). He assists patients needing emergency healthcare and helps to transport them to our local hospitals, UVA Emergency Department and Sentara MJH Emergency Department. We learned about him through his work with UVA Health System’s prehospital care network.

For his day job, Charlie is a local business owner. He has been a CARS volunteer for 11 years and enjoys his volunteer work. “I enjoy not only helping people but even more, meeting all the people involved,” says Charlie. “That includes patients, their families, other providers, hospital workers, as well as the camaraderie and enjoyment from mixing with the volunteers at CARS. As I often tell people, where else is a 65-year-old guy going to regularly enjoy time with 19-21-year old’s in college?”

Charlottesville Virginia firehouse with firetrucks and EMS truck

The CARS team is first on the scene in emergencies, including opioid abuse and overdose. Charlie shares some of his most impactful experiences on opioids calls:

Two Patients, One Family

“On a Friday evening, we got a call for an unconscious male in a car at the Barracks Road Shopping Center. I had a medic trainee with me who was preparing for his release to full duty. On arrival, we noticed two police officers on either side of the car, with both car doors open, and we could see a man lying on the ground on the passenger side.

“I hopped out of our vehicle and the police officer stated, ‘There is another one on the other side.’ The trainee and I split up and we each took one patient. Both patients had good pulses, but were unconscious, unresponsive, and were not breathing. We immediately dispatched a second rescue squad unit. We each started bagging (resuscitating) our patients and moved them into the ambulances as the second unit arrived. Both of us administered Narcan and each patient became responsive and started breathing.

“We proceeded to the hospital, by now the Duty Officer had joined my trainee, and we turned over the patients to the nurses. After completing my paperwork, I handed it to the nurse, stating ‘This is the paperwork for Mr. XX.’ I’ve never forgotten this, she looked at me and asked, ‘Which one, the father or the son?'”

Addiction Doesn’t Recognize Reason

“I had a call to Stribling Avenue for an unconscious male. Upon arrival, the patient was lying on the floor, drooling from his mouth, apneic (not breathing), with a good pulse and pinpoint pupils. I started bagging the patient while we drew up the Narcan. The Narcan brought the patient around, who told me, ‘My best friend died from an overdose.’ Really? Yet it made no difference that he nearly died the same way. He had taken Oxycodone pills.”

A Patient’s Right to Refuse Care

“I had a call on Commerce Street, again with a medic trainee. On arrival, we found an unresponsive male, apneic with a pulse and the SpO2 was in the 60s (a low blood oxygen level). I began bagging the patient while the trainee drew up the Narcan. As the trainee was looking for a vein, the patient started moving and woke up. The bagging alone brought him around. He immediately refused IV access and also refused any further care. He told us he had chewed Fentanyl patches. He was A&O x4 (alert and oriented to person, place, time, and event). Although we had him speak with a doctor, we ultimately had to leave him.”

New Year’s Overdose

“The last call was on New Year’s Day. It was a cardiac arrest around 10am. On arrival, there was a very upset man in the driveway. Inside we found a male, late 20’s, on his knees, slumped on the couch. He was warm, pulseless, and apneic, in asystole (no heart activity).

“We worked the code for about 40 minutes. We found numerous types of drugs on his person and in the apartment, and his friends told us that he was a regular drug user. By now his parents and siblings were on scene and in the kitchen. We finally contacted MedCom at the UVA Emergency Department and called it. I still remember going into the kitchen and telling his entire family the bad news. It was not my most enjoyable New Year’s Day.”

Get Involved

Volunteers like Charlie deliver comprehensive emergency medical and rescue services in support of our community.

Support CARS

If you are seeking treatment for yourself or someone else, contact Region Ten at 434-972-1800 or if someone is in immediate danger, call 911 for emergency services. The Blue Ridge Poison Center, located at the UVA Health System and staffed by Emergency Medicine personnel, can answer questions regarding medication mistakes and the consumption of other substances–the center can be reached at 1-800-222-1222.