TRAVERSE CITY — It was a typical Friday at the library. Until a staffer crawled under the locked door of a bathroom stall and helped save the life of a woman who was overdosing.
“I really just thought she was snoring, but the 911 dispatcher said to start CPR,” said Deb Radjenovich, business manager of the Traverse Area District Library.
“She was breathing, and so I wasn’t sure that was necessary, but it turned out to be spot on.”
A young woman suffered an overdose in the women’s bathroom on the second floor of the main library Jan. 17. A patron alerted staff, an inside emergency call went to all facility managers and Radjenovich and another staffer responded.
“I didn’t want to crawl under the door but I saw someone who needed help,” she said.
A patron in the bathroom happened to have sterile gloves and a mask to use when performing CPR. The patron did the breathing, Radjenovich did the chest compressions until Traverse City Police and EMTs arrived.
“From the second they got there, they were amazing and I give a lot of credit to 911,” Radjenovich said. “They would not let her die. They basically forced that woman to live.”
Library director Michele Howard said since the opioid epidemic, public, school and academic libraries across the nation have had patrons overdose. Howard said as far as she knows, this is the first time someone overdosed at the Woodmere Avenue facility.
“Libraries are safe places, and I don’t want anyone ever to be afraid to come to the library,” Howard said. “A person who is suffering from addiction might be a danger to themselves, but doesn’t want to hurt anyone.”
Howard already had an overdose training scheduled for Presidents Day with Harm Reduction Michigan, an advocacy nonprofit that provides services to people who use drugs.
On Thursday the library board approved keeping Naloxone, and overdose reversal drug, on each floor of the main library, and in the Kingsley and East Bay branches.
Radjenovich, who spent 11 years in the Air Force, said the experience of helping someone challenged by addiction — and the response training by Pam Lynch of Harm Reduction that followed — gave her a new perspective.
“It changes your mindset about people in the opioid epidemic,” Radjenovich said. “And the trainer was excellent in how she spoke about it. Truly, it was a real eye-opener. You think its a certain kind of person but she just looked like a college student.”
People who are overdosing can appear to be sleeping and may even sound like they’re snoring, Lynch said. The sound actually means they are not getting enough oxygen and are in danger of dying.
Harm Reduction Michigan provides free training to recognize an overdose on the last Tuesday of the month in the Thirlby Room of the library from 6 to 7:30 p.m.