I.C.E. . . .

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY when something unexpected calls for immediate attention . . .

One cannot prepare for every emergency. There are no rules and regulations that are guaranteed to protect someone from illness, injury, or harm. However, there are things a person can do to contribute to the best outcome possible.

Recently my friend who lives across the hall in my apartment building had a stroke – a serious stroke that made it impossible for her to speak or even to think clearly enough to alert anyone that she needed help. It was of utmost importance to the emergency department physicians to know what time the stroke occurred, because the “clot buster” treatment depends on the time since the event. Her family noted that her morning paper and cup of coffee remained on her kitchen table; she was dressed. But no one had seen her in the hall, nor had she put on her hiking shoes for her customary early-morning outdoor walk. Because she could not speak and was understandably becoming more panicked as time went on, no one knew of her situation until a family member arrived for a visit a couple hours later.

She remains hospitalized and is responding well to her care.

The point of this story, and the conversation among many of the residents in our building, is what information is needed In Case of Emergency (I.C.E.) Because it was a Sunday, the office of the building was not open. Our lease agreement documents include names of next-of-kin and additional health information, but that wasn’t available at the time needed. For best protection and rapid treatment in emergencies, medical and rescue personnel look in a person’s wallet for identifying information, names of family members, list of medications currently being taken, list of allergies, and sometimes preferred hospital, physician or emergency facility.

In addition to that wallet card and/or a medical alert bracelet or necklace with information, it is recommended that everyone have a refrigerator magnet called a File of Life. This is a plastic “sleeve” or envelope that includes the information mentioned above. These File of Life notices are a vital source of information when/if a person is ill or injured and unable to speak for him/herself. The File of Life is available at pharmacies, and often in health clinics, or at Red Cross events or other health information programs.

In addition (because emergencies do not always occur within one’s home), there is a setting on a cellphone o that is for emergency information. Healthcare personnel will look for a phone on the person experiencing an emergency.

Your concern for privacy of information is respected, however, this is about emergency health situations when it is to your advantage to access life-saving care as quickly as possible. Many of us have the best intentions to prepare for the unexpected, but often the concern passes without action. We think we will do it later when we have more time or when we can discuss with family or physician. At the very least, write your next-of-kin name and phone number on a piece of paper and tape it to the door of your refrigerator right now – until you get around to something more inclusive and detailed.