Saturday, June 13, 2009

Those Who Forget Their History . . .


# 3337


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


Not where you thought I was going, is it?  


But this is an important aspect of personal preparedness.


Knowing, and having immediately available, a  medical history on every member of your family.


As a former paramedic - one who has struggled to take thousands of medical histories in the back of a moving vehicle, or at the scene of a medical emergency -  I know how difficult getting an accurate and complete medical history can be.


As you might imagine, when someone is unconscious, or unable to respond to questions, getting a medical history becomes more problematic.


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 under the pressure of additional questioning, admitted to taking `a red one, a blue one and two white ones in the morning . .  and 3 white ones at night’well, I’d have a lot of nickels.


Since I act as a medical advocate for several relatives, I maintain a pretty elaborate medical history on each of them.   When one of them falls ill, a copy goes with them to the doctor or the emergency room.


I never see my doctor without bringing him an update 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.


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 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 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.