At Dunkin' Donuts, employees keep an eye on the bathroom

Emergency personnel from the New London fire and police departments tend to a male drug overdose victim in the men's restroom at Dunkin' Donuts on Broad Street in New London on March 10, 2016. (Tim Martin/The Day)
Emergency personnel from the New London fire and police departments tend to a male drug overdose victim in the men's restroom at Dunkin' Donuts on Broad Street in New London on March 10, 2016. (Tim Martin/The Day)

New London — Nicholle Maynard, assistant manager of the Dunkin’ Donuts at 175 Broad St., keeps a close eye on the bathrooms these days.

She knows a stay of 20 or more minutes may well mean someone’s inside overdosing, and the last thing she wants is someone to die on her watch.

It’s a sad new reality in a state that may see more than 1,000 fatal overdoses this year. But last Friday, Maynard’s vigilance paid off.

It was about 10:50 a.m. when a woman came up to the counter and asked Maynard to unlock the bathroom. She wasn’t clear at first, Maynard said, but eventually admitted her friend was inside.

“I said, ‘Please don’t take this to offense ... but do I need Narcan?’” Maynard recalled. “She said, ‘I don’t think so.’”

Not buying it, Maynard asked a second time, eliciting a different response.

“She said, ‘Yes, you might want to bring it.’”

Maynard located the store’s first aid kit and pulled out the naloxone, a relatively new addition. Then she headed with the woman to the bathroom.

Inside, the pair found a 52-year-old woman, unconscious. Adrenaline rushed over Maynard, who hadn’t administered naloxone before but knew what she needed to do. With the frantic friend standing over the woman, Maynard followed the instructions to administer the first dose, teaching the friend as she went. The friend then administered a second dose.

By the time emergency crews had placed the woman on a stretcher, she was sitting up and coherent, Maynard said, calling the whole experience “scary.”

“It’s a good thing we had (the naloxone),” she said, “but it’s sad we have to.”

It’s thanks to Maynard the naloxone was on hand. An on-and-off employee of the store for about eight years, Maynard said she has found drug paraphernalia and seen multiple overdoses in its restrooms.

According to police, city emergency personnel have responded to at least six suspected overdoses at the shop in the last three years.

In March last year, the scenario played out tragically when employees found 23-year-old Joseph A. Perdomo lying on the floor, unresponsive. Officials pronounced him dead on scene.

Not wanting that to happen again, Maynard on Aug. 31 took the short trip to Williams Park, where the regional Opioid Action Team was hosting an Overdose Awareness Day event. She picked up a naloxone kit from The Medicine Shoppe’s booth at no cost to her, thanks to a donation from Dr. Frank Maletz’s Healthspital Foundation. She then placed the overdose-reversal drug in the coffee shop’s first aid kit, where it stayed until last week.

Maynard said she has since reached out to area organizations about restocking the kit.

It’s an issue that’s close to Maynard. She has seen friends and acquaintances fight and sometimes lose their battles with substance abuse. She, too, has struggled with addiction, although not to heroin.

“Obviously everyone’s drawn to Dunkin’ Donuts for a reason — there’s not people breathing down their necks,” she said. “I know what it’s like. You don’t want help until you want help.”

The store in the past kept the bathroom doors locked at all times, making customers ask for a key to gain entry. It wasn’t a successful endeavor, Maynard said. Sometimes employees were too busy to make the handoff. Other times customers walked out with the key, forcing the store to change the locks.

Besides, Maynard pointed out, “even if we give out the key, there’s still no guarantee what they’re doing in there.”

Maynard said she wishes there was a better safe haven for people who are actively using and not ready for treatment.

Until that exists, though, she'll continue to spend part of her days at one of the area’s busiest Dunkin’ Donuts glancing toward the restrooms, ready to act.

l.boyle@theday.com

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