Sunday, March 8, 2020

911 & The Single Life

The hallway where it all began...
A few weeks ago I was rushing around, getting ready for work...and in my haste (and stupidity), I tripped and fell in the hallway. Faceplant, right on the carpet…down for the count. I have a bad hip (from an old injury, which complicated things), and when I came to my senses after crying out in excruciating pain and colorful expletives, I asked myself: “Self…what just happened here? You idiot! You know better than this.”

I (stubbornly) proceeded on with my day, thinking about how fortunate I am that I work in an ambulance station located right behind a hospital. But at the end of the day, I go home. What should I do, in the case of an emergency…when there is no one else around?

The incident turned on a light bulb, lighting the way to write this blog series, 911 & The Single Life. I have the honor and privilege of interviewing a few of our EMTs and Paramedics for this series, and they’ve been more than gracious in spending a few moments here and there in their busy lives and between calls to answer my questions.

Always Be Prepared for an Emergency.
No one schedules a 911 ambulance ride. I look back at the times I’ve been through traumatic events in my life, thinking: “I had no idea the day would end up like this when I woke up this morning.”  Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and such wake-up calls are very real.
   One of our EMTs said: “The more I know about you when you’re conscious helps me know more about you when you’re unconscious.” There are things you can do to prepare.

The “411 for the 911”: Create and Post an Emergency Information List
There are several examples and templates available online that you can use as a guide, but listed below is the information that First Responders need:
Full Name
Phone number
Emergency Contacts - Names and phone numbers of next of kin, family, friends, neighbors.
Medical Conditions - List ALL of your medical conditions (Diabetic, hypertension, back pain, anxiety, etc.)

Medications - List ALL of the medications you are currently taking. Important! Include dosages. Keep all medications together in one place.
Allergies – List ALL allergies (food, medications, latex, pollens, mold, anaphylaxis, etc.)
DNR/DNI Order (Do not Resuscitate/Do Not Intubate). Power of Attorney documentation. Must be notarized.
Other items: Copy of insurance card, name of your Primary Care Physician

Keep this information posted on your refrigerator, where it is visible!
Ask me to e-mail you a printable PDF of AMR Fremont County’s “411 for the 911” Information Sheet. You can email me at

If you have a Guardian Flight Membership, display the sticker in a visible, prominent area...on your fridge, somewhere visible in or on your vehicle, keep your card in your wallet.

Emergency information on your smartphone:
Another way for First Responders to know about your medical and emergency information is to add it to the lock screen on your smartphone. It’s very easy to do:
Go to your phone’s Settings
Go to “About Phone”
Scroll until you see “Emergency information”, and then enter your info.
(On my smartphone, I can enter blood type, allergies, medications, my home address, if I’m an organ donor, and then I added my emergency contact phone numbers.)
The “Emergency” function on your lock screen can now be accessed by First Responders.
If you need help doing this, contact your phone service and they can walk you through the steps.

Keep all of these lists and information current! Update whenever there is a change of information, documentation, medications and medical history.

Make Your Physical Address Visible and Accessible!
Our EMTs are pretty well-oriented with the streets, roads and areas of Fremont County. But if you live in the “wide open spaces”, it can be a challenge, especially at night. EMS stands for “Emergency Medical Services” and response time is critical…not just for you, but for our First Responders as well. There’s a lot you can do to help them help you:

Make sure that your address and properties are clearly marked and describable for the 911 dispatchers.
Mark your properties from the main roads with reflectors, describable landmark-type structures, signs, clear address numbers on mailboxes. Reflectors on fences and gates are helpful.
Know the specific names of the crossroads and intersections near your home. Specific, unique landmarks are also helpful to describe to dispatch.
Make sure gates are open for the ambulances to enter. If you live in a gated complex that has coded access, make sure that 911 dispatch is aware of this.

Make Sure YOU are Accessible!
There have been situations where our First Responders have had to struggle to gain access to not just the property or the front door, but once inside, they need to be able to access you…and they’re looking around at everything that may help them help (and find) you.
Hearing some of their stories – from stacked milk crates used as front door steps…to hoarding situations where they can barely even get the front door or bedroom doors aggressive, anxious and confused pets – there are many things that can hinder them in getting to you in a timely manner. So…
Keep your driveways, pathways and sidewalks clear. Remove any obstructions…kids’ toys, pet toys, bikes, etc.
Clean, clear and maintain your home. Keep the “main arteries” (foyers and front rooms, living rooms, hallways) cleared of any obstructions. Keep all entrances to the bedrooms clear. There are situations where our EMTs may need to bring in a cot or a transport chair, and having to wade through a bunch of “stuff” only takes away from the time they could be saving your life. You also don't want them getting injured in the process of trying to save you!
Medical Equipment: Wheelchairs, walkers, canes, commode safety rails, etc. Use them! Also know that your medical equipment tells our EMTs that you have a medical condition that requires the use of them…which can help them as they’re assessing the scene and providing the care you need.

Friends and Family: Welfare Checks
I’m probably the most extroverted introvert I know! There are times I love to get out and about and get together with friends and family, but...I also value my alone time. Most would think I’m just fine, but the morning that I fell…what if it was more serious than just a faceplant in the hallway? What if I had hit my head on the corner of a table or desk? What if I had slipped in the bathtub or exiting from a shower? What if a large object had fallen on me? What if I had broken my leg or injured my back or neck, and became immobile?

Have a friends and family check in on you routinely. My daughter and I keep in contact with each other often, and she visits me frequently. I have a lot of friends who check in with me online, and if they haven’t heard from me in a while, my phone will start blowing up. I don’t consider it annoying; I consider it caring. Get to know your neighbors. If you're a member of a church or social group, have the pastor or a committee member check in on you from time to time.
Keep your phone with you. Even in the bathroom. Have a specific place you set it in each room of your house, so you know where it is at all times. If you have a landline, know where the phone(s) are and keep them clear of any obstructions. Most of all...keep your phone charged!
Take your prescribed medications. Your physician gave them to you for a reason. If you have diabetes or allergies, know where your kit is. If you take sleep aids, take only the prescribed amount. Consult with your physician(s) if you feel any type of change that might concern you.
Life Alert/Lifeline. I know we joke around about the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” commercials. Sure, it’s all fun and games…until it happens to you. I’m told by our medics that there are folks, young and old, who have life alerts for their medical conditions. There is absolutely no shame in having one. Yes, once in a while they might get a “false alarm”, but it’s our First Responders' jobs to respond, no matter what. One of our medics said they learn something with every call. Every call, including the false alarms and cancelled calls.

My fall wasn’t serious…and it was my own fault. There were several factors that led up to the incident: I was rushing around and was wearing sweat pants that were too big and had to keep pulling them up (hey, the good news is that I’ve lost weight; the bad news is obvious). Prevention measures? If I had kept better track of timewalked instead of rushing to the bedroom to get ready for work…wore better-fitting clothes, like sweat pants that didn’t slip down off my butt…I wouldn’t have fallen.

(“Fall Prevention” will be the next subject in this series.)

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