Pocket protector

Soldotna man promoting potential life-saving idea

The specific cause of Thomas Newsom's seizures is not yet known. The 61-year-old Soldotna resident's epileptic seizures occur often and without warning, and his attacks can cause loss of speech. 

Newsom said he is frequently transported to the hospital, and to aid paramedics, he has created an emergency information card. It resembles a business card that contains a list of medications and physician contact information, he said.
Newsom keeps the card in his coat pocket and hands it to emergency responders in critical situations. He said the card is on him at all times.
Medical patients may use precautionary measures to prevent confusion during emergencies. Medical alert bracelets and other means, such as Newsom's makeshift card, are employed to help emergency medical technicians and doctors obtain patient information.
Newsom has written his medications on the card, specifying in milligrams the pills that he needs to take and at what time. He is instructed to take nine pills a day, and the card has proven useful numerous times, Newsom said.
"I just reach into my pocket and hand it to them," Newsom said. "They write the info down on a piece of paper and hand it off to the doctor in the emergency room."
Central Emergency Services of Soldotna responds to an average of 2,200 emergency calls per year. In 2010, CES ran 65 calls involving seizures.
The Kenai Fire Department, which responds to an average of 1,500 calls a year, ran about 30 calls involving seizures.
The situation determines if the patient who suffers a seizure needs to be transported to a hospital.
Residents sometimes forget to take their medications or inaccurately adjust dosage, which can result in a medical emergency, but a person is only taken to the hospital if the seizure was their first, or if the seizure was the result of a head injury, Kenai Fire Department chief Mike Tilly said.
Tilly concluded that Newsom's card is a good idea in general, but the practical side needs more work.
On the one hand, if an EMT were able to find an information card on an unconscious seizure patient, the accuracy of the information would need to be considered, he said. On the other hand, medical identification tags are nationally recognized. These silver bracelets are the most recognized form of alert communication, Tilly said.
"Any additional information we can get on patients that are unable to communicate, whether it's from unconsciousness or seizures, is good information," Tilly said. "But unless the card is laminated and hanging from the neck and could easily catch our eyes it may not be found."
In addition, paramedics do not search patients.
"Unless there's a legitimate reason for us to go looking through their stuff we do not do so," CES paramedic Reed Quinton said.
A problem physicians face at the Cental Peninsula Hospital's emergency room is not knowing patients' previous medical problems and current medications, staff physician of the emergency department at CPH Ned Magen said. Family members often arrive with information, but the physicians do, after a certain point in time, search patients for information, he said.
"Patients, whether they're unconscious or not, coming in with an accurate list of their medicines is extremely helpful," Magen said. "Most of the time people don't know the names or dosages of their medicines."
Medical alert tags are worn around the wrist or neck. Conditions indicated on the tags include rare blood types, allergies - food, drug, insect - and any seizure disorder.
Newsom wears two medical alert tags - one around his neck and one attached to a miniature flashlight he ties around his wrist. He takes extra steps to battle his ailment, but believes the card kept at close reach is his most important precaution.



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