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Toddler Revived from Accidental Fentanyl Overdose Underscores Reality of Crisis in U.S.

A reporter holds up an example of the amount of fentanyl that can be deadly after a news conference about deaths from fentanyl exposure, at DEA Headquarters in Arlington, Va. Jacquelyn Martin | AP
A reporter holds up an example of the amount of fentanyl that can be deadly after a news conference about deaths from fentanyl exposure, at DEA Headquarters in Arlington, Va. Jacquelyn Martin | AP

By: Bethany Blankley

A toddler playing in a San Francisco public park was nearly killed from fentanyl poisoning. If paramedics hadn’t arrived as quickly as they had and administered Narcan, he would have likely died, authorities say.

The incident has shaken the community and led the San Francisco Chronicle to ask if the toddler’s near-death experience would be enough of a “wake-up call for S.F.’s leaders” to address the city’s “drug crisis.”

Ten-month-old Sena Matkovic was crawling in the grass and playing with leaves at George Moscone Park in the Marina District last week when he suddenly began struggling to breathe and turned blue, his nanny, Wendy Marroqui, told local news outlets.

“I shook him, and I’m like, something’s wrong,” she told WRAL News. “I saw his face and he was dizzy. I thought he’s not breathing.”

She called 911 and paramedics administered Narcan, a medication used to quickly reverse opioid overdoses.

The toddler’s father, Ivan Matkovic, shared a copy of the hospital report with the Chronicle, which listed a fentanyl overdose as his son’s diagnosis. After completing a fentanyl screening, according to Sutter Health’s CPMC hospital report, the diagnosis was listed as an “accidental fentanyl overdose, initial encounter” followed by “respiratory arrest.”

The synthetic opioid can be accidentally absorbed through skin contact and by breathing the powder. It’s odorless and can be undetectable by the naked eye.

Two milligrams of the illicit opioid, the weight of a mosquito, is considered a lethal dose.

“It’s not just dealers and people you don’t know who are impacted by this, it’s tipping over into the broader populace,” Matkovic told the Chronicle.

City Supervisor Catherine Stefani, whose district includes the neighborhood where the playground is located, told the Chronicle in a separate interview she was expecting city public health officials to provide answers.

“We don’t know for sure what happened in this specific case, but I think what it highlights is the fact that there are drugs everywhere in this city. It’s not just in the Tenderloin,” she said. “We see it in our neighborhoods. We see people constantly using drugs openly in our parks, on our sidewalks, in all corners of the city without enough consequences. It should be unacceptable.”

The news comes after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency recently issued its second public safety notice in roughly a year on the dangers of fake pills laced with fentanyl.

It also came after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody warned about the dangers of illicit fentanyl being trafficked into the U.S. illegally by Mexican cartels and their operatives through the southern border.

Since last March, Texas law enforcement officers have seized over 352 million lethal doses of fentanyl in pill and powder form being brought in through the southern border – enough to kill everyone in the United States. Florida law enforcement officers over a several month period this year seized enough fentanyl to kill everyone in Florida. That was after officers in a separate operation seized enough fentanyl from a Mexican cartel-related drug bust to kill half of Florida’s population.

Earlier this year, DEA agents in a three-month operation seized 10.2 million fake prescription pills laced with fentanyl across all 50 states – after they’d seized more than 20.4 million fake pills in 2021 – a 50-fold increase in three years.

“Often, users have no idea that fentanyl is in other drugs until it is too late,” Moody warned, also highlighting the dangers of rainbow fentanyl, bright colored pills that look like candy to entice children and youth.

Abbott has called on President Joe Biden to designate the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, both primarily responsible for bringing in fentanyl to the U.S., as foreign terrorist organizations. Moody, leading a coalition of 18 attorneys general, has called on Biden to classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction.

The governors and AGs also have repeatedly called on Biden to secure the border and stop the cartel-orchestrated violence, human and drug trafficking that is inundating American communities. They’ve yet to receive a response.

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