man and woman rescuing a person
Photo by Mikhail Nilov on

Brian Twaites long ago lost count of the number of cardiac arrests he’s reversed in his almost forty-year career as a Vancouver paramedic. 

He’s used to what he will face upon arriving at the scene of an overdose: often it’s a patient who looks past the point of no return. 

“These people are clinically dead. They are not breathing and do not have a pulse… They’re blue in the face. For all intents and purposes, they look dead when you show up,” said Twaites. 

In 2016, British Columbia declared a public health emergency in response to a massive increase in opioid related overdoses. Since then, more than 10,000 people in the province have died from a drug overdose, according to the BC coroner's office. More than 1,200 died in the first six months of 2023.

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Fin DePencier is a journalist, photographer and filmmaker based in Toronto. Over the past few years, he has reported on the ground from Ukraine, Armenia, Lebanon and Kazakhstan as a correspondent for Palladium...