By Gregory P. Cuculino, M.D., chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Taylor Hospital and Delaware County Memorial Hospital
The phone rings at 2 a.m. and you’re told your son has been in an accident…
You are doing some yard work and suddenly experience chest pain and collapse…
Your daughter runs headlong into another player at her soccer game and loses consciousness…
These are all scary thoughts and scenarios; however, the most terrifying thing is that these are real situations, which happen every day. What can you do to be prepared for this kind of medical emergency? There are a few steps you can take that can make the difference in an emergency.
1. Know Your Local Emergency Centers
You should know where the closest emergency departments (ED) to your home and to your places of school/work are located.
In many cases, the injured person will be brought to the ED by an ambulance, but how will you get there? If your son or daughter were brought to the local ED, would you know how to get there in the middle of the night? With the pressures of the situation, getting directions is the last thing you need to have on your plate. Knowing where your local emergency centers are ahead of time is a huge help.
2. Build a Communication Plan
How will people reach you if a loved one is brought to the ED and how will you reach others? If you are unconscious, how will the ED know whom to contact? If there is an emergency, is one person going to call everyone in the family updating them on the news? These tough questions need to be answered ahead of time. In every emergency setting, communication is always the area that can be improved and the best way is to be prepared.
You should develop a communication plan that instructs everyone on how information will be spread in case an emergency does happen. Family members should know their responsibilities if they should receive information on an emergency, including if they need to call anyone and who those people should be.
Additionally, you and your family members should place contact information for family and friends in your phone with the label “ICE – In Case of Emergency”. This will help emergency responders or bystanders to quickly notify your family if an emergency has occurred.
3. Keep Your Medical Information on You at All Times
Important medical information should be kept on a piece of paper in your wallet or purse. This should include your name, medical problems, medications that you take, any allergies, primary care physician, as well as emergency contacts. Remember that some phones require a code to access the contact list or can be lost in the shuffle, so you should have a backup.
Medications interactions can be severe. Many medications have serious side effects or can predispose you to things like increased bleeding. It is vital for emergency personnel to know if you or someone you love is taking medications such as blood thinners, and they need to know it immediately.
Also, medication allergies range from mild to life-threatening. If emergency personnel are not aware of an allergy, they can make a bad situation much worse.
With a little preparation, a bad situation can be made a little less stressful and serious complications can be prevented. The 15 minutes you take now can save your life later.
In the event of a medical emergency, always call 9-1-1 so paramedics can help with urgent situations.