Wednesday, September 16, 2015

#NatlPrep : Those Who Forget Their History . . . .


Note: This is day 16  of National Preparedness Month . Follow this year’s campaign on Twitter by searching for the #NatlPrep hash tag.

This month, as part of NPM15, I’ll be rerunning some edited and updated older preparedness essays, along with some new ones.




. . . .  are condemned to wait longer in triage.


As a former paramedic - one who has struggled to take thousands of medical histories at the scene of a medical emergencies or in the back of a moving ambulance -  I know how difficult compiling this vital patient data (medical hx, medications, drug allergies, etc.) can be.


Knowing, and having immediately available, a  medical history on every member of your family should be part of everyone’s emergency plan.


As you might imagine, when someone is unconscious, or unable to respond to questions, getting a medical history becomes more even more difficult. You have to rely on relatives, friends, neighbors . . .and sometimes even snooping in their medicine cabinet.


Often, people don’t even know what medicines they are taking, or why.


If I had a nickel for every time a patient denied taking meds, but after additional questioning (it pays to be persistent), admitted to taking `a a blue one and two white ones in the morning . .  and 1 white and 1 read one at night’well, I’d have a lot of nickels.


Since I’ve acted as a medical advocate for several relatives over the years, I’ve learned to maintain a pretty elaborate medical history on each of them.  And I never see my doctor without bringing him an updated history. 


Sure, he knows me.  But he sees hundreds of patients, and me only every few months.  There is no way he can remember the details of my medical history.


So I provide him with a short, 1 page synopsis that he can scan in about 30 seconds, to make his life, and mine, easier


I also include my `talking points’  or complaints, to ensure we cover all of my concerns in the brief time we have together  (see A History Lesson to learn how).


Since you can’t always know, in advance, when you might need medical care it is important to carry with you some kind of medical history at all times.  It can tell doctors important information about your history, medications, and allergies when you can’t.


Many hospitals and pharmacies provide – either free, or for a very nominal sum – folding wallet medical history forms with a plastic sleeve to protect them.


I’ve scanned the one offered by one of our local hospitals below. It is rudimentary, but covers the basics.



In a medical emergency, minutes can make the difference between life and death.  And even in less urgent cases, having all of this information can go a long ways towards speeding your treatment.


You should really make it a point, this week, to get medical history forms for every member of your family – regardless of their age – and fill them out.  Except for very small children, everyone should find a way to carry it with them at all times.


This is not a one-time, make it and forget, prep.  You need to update it every time you add or change your medications, or your medical history changes.    It only takes a few minutes now.


But it could save a lot of time later.

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