How Connected Are We Really? Lessons Learned from a Medical Emergency
Two weeks ago my friend, Penny, passed out while out dancing at a night club with a group of friends, including me.
Here are lessons I learned from this frightening night that may be helpful to people of all ages. As I write this, Penny remains in the hospital but, thankfully, is on the road to recovery. (Her name has been changed to protect her and her family’s privacy.)
While we live in an age where we think we’re constantly connected to each other via cell phones, when it comes to an emergency situation, how connected are we really?
Penny is a 63 year old, single woman who lives with her adult daughter, age 30, and her granddaughter, a teenager. When she collapsed that evening, she was unconscious and unable to speak or respond to us or the paramedics.
After she was rushed to the Emergency Room by the paramedics, her friends who were there tried to reach Penny’s daughter by phone. Each of us only had Penny’s home phone number in our cell phones. We knew her daughter’s name but did not have her cell phone number. We knew her son’s name but no one had his home or cell phone numbers in our phones.
As it happened, Penny’s daughter, Judy, was out for the evening and didn’t get the urgent messages we left on their home answering machine. Luckily, Penny’s granddaughter (instructed not to answer the home phone when she is home alone at night) heard us leaving the messages, called Judy on her cell phone, and she then called us from her cell phone.
This is a good reason NOT to give up your land line, as many younger people seem to be doing. How would we have reached Penny’s daughter if we couldn’t leave a message on her answering machine at home?
While We Were Waiting
As we were sitting in the waiting room of the ER, it dawned on us — did any of us have each other’s contact information in our cell phones? Would our friends know whom to call in case we were the patient in an emergency like this? The answer was a resounding “No!” We all knew our spouses’ or children’s names, but did not have the best number to reach them at, nor know whom we should call first.
On the spot we exchanged these contact numbers and entered them into our cell phones. I realized that in a stress-filled moment, I may not remember all of my friends’ family’s names so, for example, I entered “Tonys Daughter” as the first and last names in my contacts list.
Do Emergency Personnel Recommend “ICE”?
I remembered reading about “ICE” a few years ago, but wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to enter in my cell phone or not. I wondered if paramedics would look on my phone for such information if I was injured?
Yes, they do.
I called our local Police Department dispatch officer, Fire Department and local hospital emergency room staff. They all recommended people enter whom they want called and what number to use under “ICE” (which stands for “In Case of Emergency”) in their cell phones. If you want more than one person contacted in case of emergency, list them as ICE 1, ICE 2, etc.
ICE is a great idea, but what if the cell phone is damaged in the emergency, password protected, or gets separated from the injured person?
A Backup Plan for ICE
Along with having your driver’s license or some form of ID with you whenever you go out, keep a written list with emergency contacts, doctors’ contact information, and any important medical information on it. Have it with or adjacent to your ID card.
If your cell phone is damaged or separated from you, this information will be available for first responders in an emergency. The Los Angeles Fire Deparmtment wrote this on their blog in 2005:
“Please encourage your interested friends and colleagues to make a free ICE entry in their cell phone, especially if it will give them peace of mind – but never at the expense of written emergency contact and medical information.”
Because it was a crowded dance venue, Penny had left her wallet locked in the trunk of her car and did not bring it into the nightclub. The paramedics kept her cell phone, jacket and car keys with Penny, so we didn’t have a way to access the car’s trunk once they left for the ER. Luckily it worked out and we reached her family to tell them what had happened, but it did make me think about this situation long and hard. It doesn’t matter what age we are, it’s smart to be prepared for any and all emergencies.
Have you been in an emergency situation like this? What lessons did you learn? Please share them in the comment section below.
This blog post is part of a month-long series of ideas, tips and quotes for family caregivers. View additional posts from our “Caregiver Thought of the Day” series on our Facebook Page every day in January.
Photo Credit: daryl_mitchell’s Photostream