You are in your patrol car and receive a radio call to respond to a robbery in progress. As you reach to activate your lights and siren, your foot pushes on the accelerator and crash! The next thing you know you wake up in the trauma room with a breathing tube in your windpipe, pain across your chest, abdomen and arms, and you are restrained at your wrists and ankles. The only thought you have is, Oh my God, what happened and where am I?

You were in a motor vehicle collision with another driver that ran a stop sign. Your airbag deployed and the powder/dust from the airbag deployment activated a constricting response in your windpipe and lungs and you could not get air in or out. A passerby tried mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing, thought your heart had stopped and began CPR. They were smart enough to call 911 from their cell phone for EMS to respond. When the medics found you, you had a low oxygen level, your heart rate was slower than it should be and they had no idea why your body was reacting this way based on suspected injuries. The only obvious injury was the abrasion on your face from the airbag. You were unconscious and could not offer the medics any information. Your wallet was quickly checked for a medical information card or the like and none was found.

medical21.jpgYou got to the hospital where your heart rate was very high due to the medications they gave you to increase it from the dangerously low level you were found with. You now have an arrhythmia (irregular heart beat) that the doctors are trying to figure out if it is due to the accident or was pre-existing (you have always had it). We ask your sergeant that responded to the call of officer injured and he did not have any of your medical information with him. All medical information is locked up at the police department in a file cabinet. Your ex-wife refused to speak with us about your medical history after we located her number in your wallet. So the docs are on their own, flying in the dark in terms of knowing what they are dealing with.

Educated Guesses v. Timely Data
We treated what we thought was asthma and we began to treat your arrhythmia and the first medication we administered did not act as we thought it would and made things worse. We ordered a lot of blood work, x-rays, an echo cardiogram and you ended up with a heart catheterization all to try and determine what was going on with your heart…sound farfetched? Welcome to our world in the trauma center where your trauma surgeon is likely also a surgical intensive care physician and with the emergency medicine physician, best able to diagnose and treat your trauma/injury related issues. You also created a sense of frustration in your trauma team because you don’t carry a medic alert bracelet or necklace, no card in your wallet with any health care information on it or any other type of indication of your general health issues.

Your safety—and potentially your life—could depend on what medical information is immediately available to doctors caring for you under emergency conditions.

Systematic Safety
Each department and every officer should have a system of maintaining this information in several places. Every S.W.A.T. officer keeps two cards on their person at all times, one in a wallet and one in a designated uniform shirt or vest pocket. Another copy should be in the tactical medic’s vest with all of the other cards, plus one with the shift commander that is handed off, shift-to-shift. By doing this, a copy is available both in the field to medics as well as to the doctors assuming care. This information is either in a heat-sealed plastic folded card that has to be cut open and unfolded to see this privileged health information, or on a laminated card that may be seen whenever it is out in the open. There are commercial companies that offer a “dog-tag” like product and ones that have pre-formed cards. Whichever product is used, it has to be tailored to your department’s privacy policy and legal review.

Your team’s tactical medic should be aware of every member’s allergies and significant medical history. Unfortunately, these providers may not be able to go to the hospital with you, but the information that can assist with your treatment and care can be transmitted directly to the transporting medics.

Do yourself, your family and your department a favor and carry this vital information. It can mean the difference between life and death.

Keeping Operator Medical Information Fresh
Critical Access Inc. has put together a mini USB drive called the Portable Health Profile, or PHP, inside a small, waterproof stainless steel carrier that you can wear around your neck like a dog tag.

The drive contains special software to organize your medical information. It’s divided between info that the Doctor may need right now, and the data that is more sensitive and can be protected by password. Medical personnel access the information by putting the USB drive into any Windows-based PC and they can access the emergency information they need. Agencies can coordinate with their EMS providers in advance with the PHP, should the worst happen.

I wore the USB around my neck to judge its comfort. I pretty much forgot I had it on. Considering all the things we carry around on our necks —from guns to whistles, it’s effortless.

To set up, an officer plugs it into any PC and enters his medical info. This can include anything, including medical images such as X-Rays or a living will.   Cost per unit is $20 for the individuals, $15 for departments.

Look at the PHP by Critical Access and give doctor’s the information they need to save you when time counts. Contact

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