I was just scrolling through Twitter, and saw this article about a new program being started up by emergency services in Guelph. It was some kind of wacky fridge magnet that was supposed to save lives, so of course I had to read about it.
I guess the program is called “File of Life” and it was supposed to replace this other program called “Vial of Life”. It’s a fridge magnet, and in it or stuck to it or something would be a sheet with a person’s detailed medical history, meds and allergies. Ambulance people were supposed to just scoop it up and take it and the patient to the hospital. The old program, Vial of Life, involved people putting their medical history etc. inside a medicine bottle and putting it in their fridge, and then sticking a symbol on the fridge door that says “I have one of these vial of life thingamadoodles in here.”
Immediately I see why that program failed. There are a million places in a fridge where someone could slip the medicine bottle. If you’re smart, you’d put it in an easy-to-find spot, but things can move or get moved, and you always intend to put it back, but no one knows when they’ll next keel over and need a big ol’ ambulance ride. Now, valuable time is being wasted while ambulance personnel are rummaging madly through a crowded fridge looking for that goddamn medicine bottle. There were other problems with it, but that one screamed at me. But even this new program screams at me, for two big reasons.
First, who wants to have their medical history pinned to their fridge, for everyone to see? It reminds me of being in the hospital, where by your bed is a big sheet talking about your meds, allergies, when you last took a poop, and other things that I’m sure are super handy for nurses to have around, but do you really want to display them for the world? But that’s the hospital. It sucks, but this is your own house. When you invite neighbour Joe in for tea, do you want him to know you have IBS or genital warts or something like that?
But the bigger screaming point is Is it assumed that these people never, ever, for any reason, leave their homes, so if they’re going to have an incident, they will be at home? I know, for the 3 ambulance rides I’ve ever taken in my life that I am aware of, I was not picked up at home. One was after being in a great big ol’ car accident, one was at an urgent care clinic when I started heading to gallbladder surgery land, and one was from one ER to another while still heading for gallbladder surgery land. So if I’d had this fridge magnet system, it would not have helped.
The part that baffles me the most is, to my knowledge, there is already a system in place that would do tons better than either the message in a bottle method or the screaming display on the fridge method. It’s called MedicAlert, you know, those bracelets that have been out for an eternity? You know, those bracelets that average folks even know to maybe have a look for? As long as the person is wearing the bracelet or necklace or whatever, it’s going to be available for ambulance personnel, whether they have a problem at home or down at the store or out at the mailbox or whatever. It’s discrete, and if they have a medical history as long as your arm, there is a number to call to get more information. I have one, and although it’s never done a ton to save my life, if I developed some kind of wacky condition that did kick in and give me a problem, I’m sure having the bracelet would be super quick and easy for emergency personnel to find and use. I know one ambulance attendant was so thankful I had one, even though I was awake and alert and able to tell her everything she needed.
So what’s better about this fridge magnet system? Is it just that it’s free where MedicAlert has a membership fee? Are people moving away from the bracelet and they’re becoming a thing of the past?
I just don’t like the assumption that everyone with a serious medical condition a. never leaves their house and b. doesn’t mind having their most intimate medical conditions posted on their fridge.