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Over The Network

In a medical emergency

by forum member Keith (aka Gottasmilealot), a fire department based emergency medical technician

Information on the Vial of Life refrigerator medical information program can be found here.

Here are a few comments.

Who makes the decision to call 911? Anyone can, and should, call if they feel a person is in need of medical attention. As family or co-workers, you are better able to detect a problem than a stranger, because you know the person's "normal" state. The problem is that many times the patient does not want all the attention, or they don't want to be a bother. Especially men (sorry guys). If you don't feel right, call yourself, even if you can't talk or communicate. Get the phone off the hook, dial 9-1-1, and set the phone down. Someone will come, and the dispatcher will be able to hear what's going on. With enhanced 9-1-1, your address will display at the dispatcher's console, and police will be dispatched to investigate. This may vary in your area, but don't feel that it's of no use to call if you can't communicate.

Does everyone agree? Probably not, but call anyway. They can always return if not needed, and the patient, if capable of making an informed decision, can refuse care later, but call. If you don't call, then the person collapses anyway, medical care has just been delayed, and the consequences can be catastrophic.

Is there going to be an argument? Better an argument than a dead or seriously injured patient because no one made the call. If in doubt, err on the side of safety and call. Emergency responders are used to dealing with patients who are unhappy with the fact that an ambulance has been called, or that someone feels they should receive medical attention when they don't feel they need it. A person becoming agitated and miserable is a sign of some medical conditions. If any of you have seen a diabetic emergency where the person becomes combative, you know what I mean. It's part of the problem. Make the call.

Would you rely upon memory, or do you have a hard copy of vital medical information, to help the medical team get started? Would someone be likely to find the hard copy, if you have such? I can't emphasize enough how much it helps to have a written statement available with at least you medications and doses, doctor's information, advanced directives for care, etc.. It's a time saver, and it improves accuracy, which will improve the care you receive. One thing that has to be obtained whenever possible is a medical history and medications list. An EMT being hit with many meds and dosages being transcribed for relay to the hospital in a rush is more prone to error than a printed list. If you get in a situation where you're with someone and you don't know what they take, just scoop up their medicine bottles, put them in a bag, and give it to the ambulance crew. Remember that in the midst of the emergency, you may not be clear thinking as a result of the problem, and others may be excited and can't think straight. Write it down. The next time you watch TV, gather your meds and make the list. It's your life.

Do you have the means to take temperature and blood pressure? In an emergency, the ambulance crew will always take vital signs anyway, but what's really valuable is to know what a person's normal vital signs are. That way, their emergency vital signs can be compared with their crisis vitals. Keep that information with your medications list. Keep your information on or in your refrigerator. Why? because everyone has one, and they're easy to locate in the home. There are programs that have information tubes in which you keep you information right in the door of your refrigerator. Give your local ambulance a call and ask them. If they use a different program, they'll let you know, but we always go to the refrigerator and at least look.

Who will take care of your furry family, and how will they accomplish that? It's always good to have an emergency contact (or several) who can be contacted by the police to jump in and handle the minor issues associated with you not being there.

For those here, who carry: Have you ever wondered what happens, if they wheel you into a VA hospital (or any other hospital) and the emergency medical staff finds a gun on you? They ARE GOING TO FIND IT, you know! Any ideas? Thankfully, I remembered last night, and didn’t have to deal with that! The gun won't make it past the ambulance. Some people legally carry firearms. Some illegally carry them. If when doing our patient assessment, a weapon is discovered, the police officer will be requested to secure the weapon and remove it from the rig. They are familiar with handling firearms, will unload it, and keep it until it can be safely returned to you. If you have any weapon, or as a bystander you know the patient may have one, just notify the ambulance crew. If you walk into a medical facility, let them know you have a weapon that needs to be secured. They'll take care of it. Not a problem. Don't be afraid to go to the hospital because of a weapon. Get the help you need.

Also, don't drive to the hospital. Call an ambulance. The ambulance works as an extension of the hospital emergency room and can ( and must) operate under the direction of the medical command physician at the ER, even though they are away from the hospital. They cab transmitt EKG's, get needed medications in you, administer breathing treatments, resuscitate you. None of that can be done in a car. A trained person would have difficulty maintaining your airway in a car. Some conditions like diabetic emergencies are routinely handled without hospital transport.

One other thing to think about... can you traveling companion drive your RV if you have a medical emergency on the highway? It would be nice if someone else besides the normal driver would have the ability to be able to move your rig off the highway to a safe place, or be able to drive on to the next exit to meet a responding ambulance. Just a thought. Not absolutely necessary, but not a bad idea if all that is need is some training and practice time.

Stay safe!