Being Prepared

From VON, Canada

Almost two weeks ago a friend in my building died. At 10:45 on Sunday evening she called me – she wasn’t feeling well. I promptly went to her apartment – I was fortunate, Kathleen had been able to get to her door and unlock it so I could get in. I took one look at her, called her son, then called 911.

She was having a heart attack. She hadn’t called her son – she hadn’t wanted to disturb him so late at night. I made it clear he’d better come as quickly as he could. Meanwhile as I was waiting for her son and the paramedics to arrive I found her medications and her health card which I knew the paramedics would want.

I’ve dealt with emergencies before so I was familiar with how paramedics handle the situation. What I wasn’t expecting was the question one paramedic asked her son as they were leaving – “If her heart stops in the ambulance what do you wish us to do?” It turned out Kathleen had a DNR which her son knew about. But I realize I don’t!

I’ve spent the past couple of months getting my will, my power of attorney, my personal delegate documents in order for my niece who has agreed to act on my behalf. I’ve thought about longer range contingencies like having a terminal disease or failing cognitive function and discussed with her the kinds of decisions I am authorizing her to make. I never considered an emergency!

My niece lives in Toronto. I have a sister who lives closer in Halifax. However, were I to be having the kind of emergency I responded to that Sunday, I’d call neither of them. I’d call Deb who lives in my building. My emergency could be such that I can’t get to the door to open it – I have to make sure Deb has a key (that’s on my immediate TO DO list) so she can let herself in.

When we were discussing this she mentioned that in the home where her mother had lived in Manitoba each resident had an ERIK (emergency response information kit) on the side of their fridge. We tracked down the document online but I didn’t like how it was laid out. I went looking for a NS equivalent and came across the VON (Victorian Order of Nurses) version which they call “Vial Of Life” because the emergency information document is handed out in a vial with a bright red sticker on it to be kept in the fridge (between the mustard and ketchup, I presume). The form had precisely the information an emergency responder needs: who to contact, health conditions and medications taken, allergies, where the medications are located, the health card number.

I filled one out for myself and have put it on my fridge along with a signed and witnessed DNR. I made copies of both documents for the gals in the knitting group – none of whom had such documents for themselves. I’ve been passing out the documents to anybody who’s interested.

You don’t have to be an old person to have this information on the side of your fridge – having it in an easily accessible location makes it much easier for somebody else to help you out if you have an emergency.

Here are the documents:

Take a look. It can’t hurt you to fill in these forms for yourself and for anybody else in your household. It makes dealing with an emergency a lot easier for whoever is the person having to respond on your behalf! Trust me.