Next, I'll be asking about where to punch sharks.
July 22, 2011 6:30 AM   Subscribe

What should I have if I ever wake up in the hospital without any recollection?

Saw something tragic today. This made me a *bit* paranoid. But, reason kicked in, and I realized this is never going to happen.

Although, it would make me feel better if I knew that if something were to happen, I could do basic things that wouldn't even interrupt my life, in order to lessen to blow from this situation. The infinitesimal probability for this situation to happen...ha. Crazy.

Its never going to happen.

BUT, just in case it does...

What do I need if I ever wake up in a hospital with no memory of why I was there, what I was doing last, my physical state, or how long I've been unconscious?

Can I carry certain things on my phone, wallet, clothes that could ever help a situation like that in *any* case? Any basic, easy things I could have done in any other facet of a normal life to help this situation? Besides just living my life and not worrying. HA!

Thanks again, mefites. Yes, I know, I have nothing to say.
posted by hal_c_on to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe a military-style dog tag around your neck with name, address, a good phone number, and your Social?
posted by jayder at 6:32 AM on July 22, 2011

I would advise against those dog tags considering the second you lose them someone has pretty much carte blanche with your identity.
posted by griphus at 6:34 AM on July 22, 2011

"...against putting your SS# on those dog tags," rather.
posted by griphus at 6:35 AM on July 22, 2011

Tattoo your name and birth date on your butt. Also have an "ICE" file on your smart phone that is a list of your name, address, phone number and phone numbers for relatives and/or close friends.

You could prefund or escrow an award of say $5,000 to the person leading to the discovery of your identity in the event you lose all your memory. Leave that information in the ICE file as well.

Use one of those deadman switch email services to email a help message in the event you do not respond. It will get the right people at least looking for you even if you can't look for them.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:40 AM on July 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

I have a Medic Alert bracelet. If I arrive unconscious to a hospital, my name, address, medical records, emergency contacts, etc are all a quick phone call away, and should be waiting for me when I wake up.
posted by phunniemee at 6:43 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can I carry certain things on my phone, wallet, clothes that could ever help a situation like that in *any* case?

Photo ID ought to be enough, I should think.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:07 AM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:22 AM on July 22, 2011

Have your family/friends keep an ID kit (cheek swab, hair with follicles attached, fingerprints, current picture) and try to be listed in national identification databases, such as AFIS or CODIS. There's a variety of ways to get in to these, such as "seeking employment in an inpatient setting that houses vulnerable minors" in Washington state (Wikipedia). Or the ever popular "be arrested". Yeah, so I watch too much CSI...
posted by anaelith at 7:32 AM on July 22, 2011

Rather than information useful if stolen, you just need the phone number of a relative or trusted friend. For example, my wife is unlikely to hand out valuable information (other than medical allergies) over the phone, but after physically verifying my situation can access anything necessary. My parents would be almost as useful. If you're concerned about losing your wallet / phone, you could laminate a business card and staple it into a pocket.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:33 AM on July 22, 2011

I'm looking at this challenge as "how can I be identified if I can't identify myself?"

Besides basic ID and things with my name on them, I have an "in case of emergency please contact" in my wallet. also, my cellphone lists my home number as "home", and the phone is in my name. I've been fingerprinted in two states (happily not for being arrested), so I know those are on file somewhere.

My ham radio callsign is a globally unique identifier that's only 5 characters long, so if I were, say, backpacking somewhere or out doing blue water sailboat cruising - some circumstance where if I die my body may not end up in an easily identifiable state, I'd probably mark my clothes and my gear with that.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:46 AM on July 22, 2011

Seconding tattoo. They're permanent and, in cases where you can't be identified, tattoos and other identifying marks are something medical professionals use with the police to find out who you are. So, if this is something that bothers you, you can put your name and birthdate on your person.
posted by inturnaround at 7:47 AM on July 22, 2011

If you lost your memory, how would you remember any of these techniques?

If you have a family structure, trust them to be there for you.

If you dont have a family structure, stay out from under the piano suspended over the sidewalk.
posted by Billiken at 7:49 AM on July 22, 2011

My husband wears one of these when he bikes to and from work, just in case Bad Things happen. Name, city, and emergency numbers.

I assume your last physical state, etc., would be part of the medical report if you were hauled to a hospital.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:02 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding tattoo. They're permanent

Assuming, you know, that you don't wake up in the hospital as a result of a horrible accident that happens to have obliterated the tattoo along the way.

Alternatively, don't go far away without people knowing about it. If you go missing, someone is bound to start looking for you, and eventually the authorities will be able to put 2 and 2 together.
posted by schmod at 8:22 AM on July 22, 2011

Oh, yeah. And whenever I go on a long bike ride, I've got some kind of ID about my person, written inside my helmet, and my drivers license is usually in a small pouch under my seat.

Also, write your ICE numbers on the inside of your cellphone's battery cover.
posted by schmod at 8:24 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

What if you couldn't recognize it as your wallet? What if you couldn't even remember how to read? I wouldn't worry about these scenarios, however -- in the real world, amnesia is rare (TV Tropes).
posted by Rash at 8:26 AM on July 22, 2011

Just having your drivers license is enough.

I have been in 3 comas the latest one was 10 years ago. ITs a very scary thing waking up not knowing where you are or what happened.

If you have a SO then just having their number on you plus your drivers lciense is good enough.

Trust me going to sleep and waking up 1 week later in the hospital on life support is no picnic.
posted by majortom1981 at 8:26 AM on July 22, 2011

My boyfriend is one of those crazy cyclists. I got him a little bracelet to wear when he's out riding from Road ID. You can have it with phone numbers and simple medical information. They also have a service where the person who finds the bracelet can call a toll free number and get information.

I started thinking about this when a former professor was in Brazil at a conference, went out running and was hit by a bus and killed. They couldn't ID his body for a few days because he didn't have an ID on him.
posted by sciencegeek at 9:27 AM on July 22, 2011

I hate to say this & maybe I read too many weird books * but if you wake up alone in a hospital with no memory there is the possibility that if it is a Nefarious Hospital then they will take your phone, bracelet, etc. and will drug you to keep your mind sluggish. So the deadman email might be best solution. OTOH, if it is a Legitimate Hospital, they will help you & will keep your stuff safe.

*Like when Corwin wakes up in the hospital in Nine Princes in Amber
posted by pointystick at 10:42 AM on July 22, 2011

JohnnyGunn's suggestions, plus you could keep a web accessed calendar up to date with at least your general plans for a day and your deadman help email could link to the calendar - that way someone would know approximately where you had planned on being, which could help with where to find you and also might help you with reconstructing where you had been and what you were doing.
posted by mrs. taters at 11:45 AM on July 22, 2011

Guess what? You asked a question that I am, bizarrely, qualified to answer. (I've hit the Ask Metafilter low-probability-event question-answering jackpot! Whee!)

What you describe has happened to me. I "woke up in a hospital with no memory of why I was there, what I was doing last, my physical state, or how long I've been unconscious." In my case, I couldn't remember anything because I was really sick with an infection and delusional with a high fever. I had come to the emergency room and been admitted to the hospital, but when I woke up later I had no memory of any of that.

Here's the thing: even if you have an id bracelet or a wallet thing or a deadman email or whatever, this is not going to help you in those first few moments when you wake up alone, with no memory, no clue, no nothing. I think that you should prepare for that emotional experience, because it is bad. It's really bad. I was crying and freaking out. And I don't mean "freaking out" in that "oh no, my parents just found my drug stash! I'm totally freaking out!" way but really FREAKING OUT, like having a panic attack freaking out. What worked for me was trying to breathe slowly for many long, terrifying, panicked minutes while I considered various possible explanations for what was happening. Then I started to make a plan. I quite seriously considered the possibility that I had been kidnapped for some bizarre medical experiment and was being imprisoned against my will. I decided that ripping out my IV, medical monitors, etc and bolting for freedom was not a good plan because it would probably hurt me if I really was legitimately sick, and would only attract the attention of the evil authorities if I were being imprisoned. Therefore I concluded that my best option was to play it cool while trying to figure out what the hell was going on.

A little while later I began to remember bits and pieces of what had happened. It was kind of interesting, because I was putting the puzzle together. It's an interesting intellectual exercise. I was thinking, hmmm, why does this one particular medical term keep popping into my head? Maybe I should think some more about that word. Does it have something to do with me? What do I think of when I think of that word? And it turned out that one word was the big clue that let me work it all out. So that's my next piece of advice: you have to be able to get to a mental state where you can follow the clues your screwed-up brain is giving you about what happened and why.

The other thing I had planned (if I continued to not remember anything) was to casually but carefully grill everyone who came into my room about what had happened. It turns out I didn't need to do this because I remembered, but I was thinking that getting information from as many different people as possible would be key to figuring out whether I'd been kidnapped or whatever.

When I try to think about it objectively my amnesia probably didn't last more than 5 minutes, but it was one of the more terrifying things I have experienced.
posted by medusa at 12:08 PM on July 22, 2011 [10 favorites]

After some traumatic loss of memory, trying to reorient yourself by using rational information like your name and address may be less effective than using other senses, like touch, sound and smell. Create some things to carry in your wallet or pocket, or store on your phone, that would be likely to trigger emotional memories: photos, of course, of things that you see every day and things that you have a strong emotional attachment to; songs that get to you; a recording in your voice, describing your life. Scent is great for triggering memory, but harder to capture and carry around--maybe keep a handkerchief in your pocket that's spiked with your favorite cologne, or that your dog has slept on for a week? Notice what makes you feel most emotionally alive and connected to yourself now, and figure out how to preserve samples or mementos of those things that could be accessed easily if you needed to reawaken your sense of your self.
posted by Corvid at 2:27 PM on July 22, 2011

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