I was shooting the breeze with a couple of friends and, I’m not sure how, we came upon the subject of how to best prepare for medical emergencies (yes, we’re a lively group—excuse the pun). We came to the conclusion that the best way to learn is through personal experience.
While I hope you never have to use it, I am offering the following personal account for reference in case an emergency arises.
My mother is experiencing an irregular heartbeat and feeling faint. I dial 911, and within a very short period of time police, fire and EMT personnel arrive at my home. They immediately request a list of medications, and I hand the EMTs a copy of a file with all of the pertinent information.
They do everything they can to stabilize my mother on the way to one of Boston’s teaching hospitals. I ride in the ambulance so that I can answer the array of questions from the EMT, triage nurse, and emergency room physicians.
One of the first requests always made by the triage nurse is for a list of medications.
I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t I already give a copy to the EMT?
The triage nurse does not have the EMT copy and the EMTs are long gone. (After you go through this “medication list” experience a couple of times, you’re prepared.) I hand over another folder containing all of the necessary information.
We are quickly moved into an emergency room pod in the critical care section. The first doctor arrives.
“So how old are you?” he asks.
“Why do you need to know?” my mother responds, still a hint of sass in her voice.
He smiles easily.
“Well, can you tell me what medications you are taking?”
This is not an exaggeration. I immediately whip out a third copy of my mother’s file and hand it over to the doc. I think he’s as impressed as the nurse was.
During the next several hours, the medical team performs all of the necessary tests and ultimately they come back with a preliminary diagnosis. She needs to be formally admitted to the hospital.
Finding a suitable room takes well over an hour. Once found, the resident doctor on that floor must examine her and then accept her as a patient. Unfortunately, the resident is busy can’t run down to the emergency room to examine my mother. Again, this takes well over an hour.
The resident finally joins us in our little pod, examines my mother, and approves to have her moved. (Apparently, hospital units/floors may be highly specialized and thus, the physician wants to insure that the patient will receive an appropriate level of care from the attending staff.)
A room is finally assigned and an emergency room admin contacts “transportation” to move my mother to her assigned room.
This also takes well over an hour.
Once in her room, my mother’s new nurse tries to ask another series of medical-related questions, but she’s asleep, so I do my best to answer them. Guess what the first question is?
That’s right! “ What medications are you taking?” I triumphantly pull out another copy.
Unfortunately, my experience in these situations has given me more than enough insight into medical emergency preparations. Since time is a critical issue, store multiple updated copies of all medications and dosages, chronic medical conditions, surgeries, the names and phone numbers of primary care physicians and specialists and don’t forget to include insurance information. Having these notes handy can possibly be the difference between life and death for your loved ones, so the small amount of time and effort it takes to gather this information is well worth it. By the way, I always have a personal copy in my wallet.
If you or your loved ones spend time in a warmer climate during the winter months, do not leave home without it. It’s also not a bad idea to keep a file on a thumb drive attached to a key chain.
I had to learn the hard way. Hopefully, my friends, you won’t have to.
Stay healthy and have a productive week.
This update was written by Ron Mastrogiovanni and Chris Leone.
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