RICE LAKE, Wis. — Fentanyl isn't just deadly for drug users. It poses a serious risk to first responders on the frontline too.

On Nov. 12, 2019, Josh Eckes was working as a K9 officer for the Rice Lake Police Department and received a call to help with a routine traffic stop.

After finding drugs in the car, officers brought the suspect out of the squad to search them. Eckes was standing downwind, just a couple of feet away, and suddenly could see a powder in the air.

“And it was almost kind of like one of those old Disney movies where you see the wind kind of go like this,” Eckes said. “That was kind of what happened, and I didn't think anything of it at the time.”

Drugs and paraphernalia seized during the traffic stop. (Josh Eckes)

Luckily, Eckes happened to be only two minutes from a hospital because he was experiencing a fentanyl overdose.

“It just felt like a tingle in my throat, like a cough,” Eckes explained. “Like you need to get something up, and I went to cough, and when I went to cough, I couldn't get the air back.”

When paramedics arrived, they gave Eckes four milligrams of Narcan.

“These are people we've brought back with Narcan,” Eckes said. “We know that there's fentanyl inside the vehicle. There's a high chance that this is fentanyl, so in my mind, I know that fentanyl is something that shuts off the receptors in your brain to tell you to breathe. So in my mind, I said, 'You need to breathe, you need to breathe,' and kept on telling myself that.”

K9 Officer Cuff. (Josh Eckes)

After that, doctors would keep an eye on Eckes for the next six hours.

“My biggest thing was everything like seemed super delayed,” Eckes said. “I felt like I was just on a different planet trying to talk. When my captain came in, it felt like it was 15 seconds later I saw him. Everything was so delayed, and everything was just a very, very weird feeling.”

A few days later, Eckes was back on the job.

“I never thought in my life I would overdose on a drug, and there it was after a traffic stop that it was normal to me,” Eckes explained. “I've done thousands and thousands of sniffs with my dog, and it was just normal. You normally search a car, you normally get done, and put the person in the back of your car. That night, we didn't go back to write our reports. I ended up calling family members at 12:30 at night saying, 'Hey, I'm going to need you to come to the hospital and pick me up.'”

These days, Eckes always carries Narcan while on duty and encourages everyone to be prepared for the unexpected.