Thin blood? Sorry to hear it. Wish we could help.
May 12, 2010 12:31 PM   Subscribe

Does a medic alert bracelet always help me? Is it possible I'm actually communicating, "Don't bother with this one?"

It occurs to me that my medic alert bracelet may not always be my friend. I take coumadin for DVT and I'm wondering if notifying emergency personel of that fact is always in my best interest. How does it change the way they would handle me in a situation where they need to decide who to help first? If I had traumatic bleeding, does the bracelet tell them I probably won't survive? Does it change a triage situation?
posted by 0BloodyHell to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I feel like this is the kind of phobia that is developing as a result of right-wing "death panel" nonsense. The answer to your question is obviously no, of course not. The people who work in emergency health situations are in those fields because they get a thrill out of helping you survive, no matter what your personal complications are.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 12:45 PM on May 12, 2010 [6 favorites]

Wear the bracelet. In 99.9% of the medical incidents you are likely to be involved in, you will be one of few, if not the only, patient and knowing what medical conditions you have and what medications you take will be really important for your care providers. The situation you are thinking of would be in the event of a mass casualty incident where patients are triage based on a number of things, not just the fact that you take blood thinners.
posted by MsKim at 12:46 PM on May 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Here are just a few ways it would help you.

1. You already take coumadin. You do not want to "OD" on this particular medication. They would know about your coumadin before they give you more coumadin or meds like coumadin in order to avoid a potential adverse event.

2. They would know you could have a potential problem with hemmorhage if you were incapacitated and injured or needed emergency surgery.

3. Coumadin is a tricky medication that requires very frequent monitoring in order to achieve the right dose to control the patient's condition. Any information about a patient's current medication is extremely valuable in an emergency situation.

So I vote you keep your bracelet. It's really important in your situation.
posted by FergieBelle at 12:53 PM on May 12, 2010

My father was recently in a traumatic accident and was found at the end of our driveway unconscious and in a pool of blood. Fortunately my mother and I were inside and, when the paramedics arrived, we were able to tell them his medical history and current medications. Knowing he was on blood thinners helped the emergency staff treat him appropriately and probably prevented his subarachnoid hemorrhages from killing him. I think they gave him Vitamin K as well as a blood transfusion.
If my mother and I hadn't been available, my dad's lack of a MedicAlert bracelet could have killed him. There are ways to reverse the effects of Coumadin -- IF THEY KNOW YOU'RE ON IT. Make sure they have as much information as they can to help you.
posted by katemonster at 1:09 PM on May 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh my god, always tell medical providers about all of your drugs and medical conditions. In a triage situation, they won't be checking your medic alert bracelet to decide how to triage you, anyway.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 1:24 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

It is difficult to imagine a situation where you would be better off not having the bracelet. In any situation where you were the only injured person (or one of just a few) it would not really factor in at all, other than letting the responders know they needed to be extra careful with any bleeding injuries.

Even in an emergency triage situation with a large number of injured people, first responders are going to be entirely focused on stabilizing and categorizing everyone they can, and any additional information they can use or pass on as more help arrives will be to your benefit.
posted by Nothing at 1:32 PM on May 12, 2010

I'd wear the bracelet, and also register for the service.

I do both through Medic Alert. It gives me piece of mind that in case of an emergency, they will be alerted to my potentially deadly allergies to Aspirin and Ibuprofin, so they won't be tempted to give me those in the ER. They could also call up my info and get a list of my currently prescribed medications, my Primary and Specialist doctor's info, my relatives, and even my health insurance information. I may never have to use it, but if I ever do, it could mean the difference between a happy spinifex23, and a spinifex23 who now posts from The Great Beyond.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:42 PM on May 12, 2010

@BuddhaInABucket: this is the kind of phobia that is developing as a result of right-wing "death panel" nonsense.

Sorry, but blaming the right-wing for worries such as this is not only insensitive but to use your words absolute "nonsense." I'll agree that the media plays this game, but the media is hardly right-wing and grouping people into this is an insult.

I have not read any other responses as that one was completely inaccurate and turned me off even reading any further.

As a nurse, I can say that there is indeed such a thing as "triage." In an emergency situation, triage makes the decisions and there are protocols for that, even in disaster situations.

I would suggest Googling disaster triage and then you'll see.

On the specific subject of Medic alerts, they are only to save you. If you're on a blood thinner it will tell EMS not to give you... an Aspirin, for example or to watch for internal bleeding in a car accident and so forth. That's ALL it's for.

Hope this helps. :)
posted by magnoliasouth at 2:05 PM on May 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Echoing what others have said, this would only improve the care you may receive. It will alert responders that bleeding control and aggressive care for signs of hemorrhage are more important in your case than for many patients. In the event of a mass-casualty event in which rescuers are triaging patients, it will not play a role in your categorization. Triage is designed to process many people in a short time, and uses clear, basic indicators. I've never seen a triage flowchart that incorporated medic alert tags.
posted by itstheclamsname at 2:27 PM on May 12, 2010

As katemonster mentioned, the great thing about coumadin is that we can 'reverse' it with vitamin K and prothrombin complex concentrates if you are having life-threatening bleeding. Speaking from an emerg department standpoint, if you come into the emerg unconscious and your bracelet tells us you are on coumadin you are in the CT scanner fast. We care about things that could kill you (e.g. bleeding in the brain for a patient on coumadin) and we care all that much more when there is something we can do to stop it.

So another vote for wearing your bracelet.

And just a note on what magnoliasouth said. EMS may still decide to give you ASA if you are having chest pain. They may know you are on coumadin but they won't know if your INR is therapeutic or not.
posted by madokachan at 2:39 PM on May 12, 2010

If your bracelet said "terminal _____," maybe it would slow them down. But coumadin?
It is a very common drug and very important for them to know about.
posted by SLC Mom at 3:29 PM on May 12, 2010

No one becomes an EMT for the hours, or the safe, comfortable working conditions, or the clean, polite people with whom they get to interact, or the recognition, or the pay. EMTs do it because they find meaning and purpose -- and serious thrills -- from snatching lives from the jaws of death. They will do their very best to save yours.

Wear the bracelet.
posted by timeo danaos at 5:23 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you are found bleeding badly, wearing a bracelet that says you take Coumadin could mean a speedy injection of Vitamin K to counteract the Coumadin and start you clotting again, and mean the difference between living and bleeding out.
posted by IndigoRain at 3:15 AM on May 13, 2010

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