Working as a firefighter and paramedic in Southern California for nearly 25 years, I have had my share of medical emergencies involving children at school. One call in particular stands out in my mind and later drove me to leave the fire service and start my own company called EmergiLink.
It was a beautiful sunny California day and I was on-duty assigned to the Rescue Ambulance (RA). The call came in and as I suited up, slid the fire-pole and started up the RA, my nerves began to play on me a bit as I thought of my own three children who were also at school nearly 40 miles away.
The call came in as an unconscious child on the playground at one of the local elementary schools a few miles away. We arrived in about 4 minutes from the time we received the call and were flagged right on to the playground. We parked the RA a few feet away from our victim.
Confusion took over as none of the school personnel seemed to have any information about the child or what he was doing prior to his state of unconsciousness. Yet, for us, paramedic course training took over. We have a pneumonic we use called A-E-I-O-U-T-I-P-S that helps us run through the possible scenarios for an unconscious victim (Eg. A=Alcohol, E=Epilepsy, etc.)
It wasn’t until well into the assessment of our patient did we actually obtain any useable information on our patient. We had his name, address and parental contact info. We were on our way to the hospital in about 18 minutes and the child’s parents weren’t contacted until we almost arrived at the hospital.
Not knowing whether the child fell or had a significant medical condition we provided cervical-spine-immobilization, started an IV and placed him on the heart monitor. In route to the hospital, we noticed the child’s heart rate decreased along with irregular breathing patterns. The patient also began “posturing” which is an indication of serious brain injur
Upon arrival in the Emergency Department (ED), the staff quickly asked us what happened. We didn’t know. They asked about his medical history, where were his parents. We knew nothing.
The ED Trauma Team began assessing the child and found a slight bump at the base of his skull. They ordered a CT scan…it showed a subdural hematoma (bleeding on the brain) and the child was rushed to ICU where he was awaiting surgery.
The parents finally arrived and were able to relate the child’s medical history and medications…he took Dilantin for a seizure condition. Putting it all together, the ED staff figured he had been out playing on the playground, had a seizure and fell off of something, hitting the back of his head. He never exhibited what we knew as the typical signs and symptoms of having had a seizure in the field.
From the time we received the emergency call, until he actually went to surgery, was almost three hours. Three days later in the hospital, the child died of complications relating to the bleeding in his head.
I thought if we had known his medical history, medications, his past hospitalizations, and his parents contact information on hand during the emergency, we and the ED staff may have been able to shave off as much as an hour from the time it took to get him into surgery. I hold on to the belief…he may have survived if we had this important information.
So years later, I carry around the souls of as many as 20,000 patients I tried to make a difference with. Some I lost, that I know to this day, may still be alive if we knew something about them when we arrived to take care of their medical emergency.
So now my mission in life is to try and save lives on a global scale with EmergiLink. For me and the company, it is all about giving 1st responders an Informed Response. We do this by providing a means where citizens in any given community can link their medical history and contact information with their emergency responders ahead of time. Parents fill out the secure online application, add family members, add photos of all members and later attach two of their fingerprints to their profiles. 1st Responders can respond to a member’s medical emergency and by scanning one of their fingerprints, they can find out all they need to know to provide the best possible treatment, in the shortest amount of time, literally getting the patient to the hospital in half the time. Time and Information will give patients the best chance of survival.
It’s time for all of us to be proactive. No one is going to make you take responsibility for your own care; you will have to decide if that’s important to you or not. But what about your children? Are they going to have the best chance for survival today or are you going to hold on to the belief nothing can happen to them while they are safe at school.