LAWRENCE — Sgt. Dennis Laubner, a 19-year veteran of the Essex County Sheriff's Department, lost his son to a heroin overdose last June.
Monday afternoon he helped save a man in his 20s from suffering the same fate, according to Maurice Pratt, assistant superintendent and spokesman for Sheriff Frank Cousins.
Laubner was supervising a crew of five inmates from the Pre-Release and Re-Entry Center, also known as "the Farm," on the ramp from Route 114 to Interstate 495 northbound at 2:10 p.m. when a young woman pulled her car up behind the Sheriff's Department van. She got out and said frantically, "You need to help me!"
She told Laubner her boyfriend was overdosing on heroin – and she didn't know where she was, Pratt said.
Laubner took her phone and gave the 911 operator their location, according to Pratt. Then he and the inmates, who had been picking up litter on the on ramp and were about to return to the Pre-Release Center, brought the victim out of the car.
Laubner and one of the inmates, Dennis Dicato, who is trained in first aid, assessed the man, who is in his mid-20s, and when they determined he did not have a pulse, they began administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation, with Laubner doing chest compressions and Dicato giving rescue breaths, Pratt said.
The other inmates encouraged the man to "hang on," he added.
Lawrence police and Lawrence General Hospital paramedics arrived and the latter administered Narcan. By the time the victim was loaded into an ambulance, he had regained consciousness and appeared to be coherent, said Pratt, who was on the scene and saw much of what happened.
Laubner, who has been supervising inmate work crews for 18 years, told the young woman what had happened to his son.
"Don't let this happen to your boyfriend," he told her, according to Pratt. Laubner urged her to make sure he gets the help he needs to break free of his addiction.
Laubner and the inmates, each of whom had to earn his assignment to the Pre-Release Center, worked together as a team, Pratt said.
"I wasn't an officer, they weren't inmates. We were just human beings helping another human being," Laubner later said to Pratt.
Laubner did not think it was a coincidence that he of all people played a crucial role in helping a man so dangerously close to dying from a heroin overdose.
"God put me here today to save a life," he told Pratt.