by Airman 1st Class Julia Pyun
11/15/2015 - Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst -- Sara
Kucharski is a dedicated nurse. She is also a first lieutenant and the
Infection Control Officer with the 108th Medical Group, New Jersey Air
National Guard. In April, she saved a man's life from a heroin overdose
in Camden County.
Kucharski is a community nurse with the Camden County Department of
Health and Human Services. She works on a mobile health van called
Health Connection that provides health screening and disease risk
assessment services to the local community.
After finishing work, Kucharski and her coworker were sitting in traffic
on Route 130 when a car ahead of them pulled off to the side of the
road. A person exited the car, started to jump up and down, while
screaming "He's dying!"
"All I saw was a blue and purple arm dangling from the car door," said
Kucharski. "He was tangled in the seatbelt and his entire body was blue.
It was a struggle to get him out of there."
Another driver stopped to help Kucharski remove the man from the vehicle as other cars passed them on the highway.
"Once we got him loose, he fell out and hit his head," said Kucharski.
"The man was pretty much dead with no pulse or breathing, and he was
young, maybe in his early 20s."
Kucharski started to perform chest compressions in hopes of reviving the
man. His friend said the man's name was Brian. He thought Brian may
have overdosed since they just finished using heroin.
Brian vomited and his pulse and breathing started to come back. "He tried to get up, but I told him to relax," said Kucharski.
The police and emergency medical technicians arrived, took control of
the scene and called for Narcan, an opioid disruptor that took effect
immediately. Brian got cleaned up, waved and said thank you to
Kucharski for saving his life as she drove away.
"I wished him good luck as I left," said Kucharski.
"When telling my coworkers about this incident, I was surprised to see
how many of them would not have done what I did," said Kucharski.
"Situations like this are seen all the time. Many of my coworkers think
it's 'just another drug addict', but I would do it all over again in a
"As medical personnel, we don't have an obligation to stop and help when
we're off duty, that's the job of the first responders," said
Kucharski. "Many nurses and emergency medical technicians get burned out
from their regular work, let alone additional things during their free
"I want to turn this into a wake-up call for kids out there and have
them realize that he could have died and put my life at risk too," said
Kucharski. "I worked hard and passionately on wanting him to live. If he
died, it would have impacted my life forever too--if I couldn't bring
him back. It would have impacted everybody around him."
"I recommend anyone who has the potential to be around those with an
addiction to heroin to get trained in administering Narcan," said
Kucharski. "It's a choice for you to get trained to have it on your
person at all times."
Narcan is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be used
by family members or caregivers to treat a person known or suspected to
have a heroin overdose.
"I feel that people have a negative stereotype with addiction," said
Kucharski. "They think it's a disease and look at the people like
they're dirty. It's a mental disease like any other, and getting help
from friends and family would help addicts recover. Anyone around you
could be addicted to heroin and you would never know it. Addicts are
everyday people like you and me."
"This was the first time I resuscitated someone on the street," said
Kucharski. "All I could think about was my 6-year-old son. In 14 years,
this could be him; I hope that someone would save him like I saved
Brian. I also hope that this was the turning point for Brian to change
his life in a better direction."