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Emergency Preparedness

As we all know, emergency situations can arise at any time. People with bleeding disorders probably know this more than most people. Therefore, it's imperative that you are prepared for an emergency—whether it's an injury or a hurricane—when it happens.

This section of Step Up focuses on how to prepare for an emergency, including:

Emergency Planning

Whether you are planning for a major disaster or an unexpected trip to the emergency room (ER), planning for an emergency is essential.

Here are essential steps people with bleeding disorders should take to prepare for an emergency:

  • Wear a medical alert ID bracelet or necklace.
  • Pack a go-bag with factor and supplies to be ready at all times so you can grab it and go.
  • Keep multiple ice packs in the freezer.
  • Keep extra cash in a safe and consistent place so you will remember where it was stored. (Remember, you may not have time or be able to use an ATM machine in an emergency situation, like an evacuation or power failure).
  • Keep as much factor and supplies on hand as your health insurance will allow (at least a 2-week supply).
  • Take factor and supplies with you when you leave home.
  • Keep important phone numbers (eg, your Hemophilia Treatment Center [HTC], home care company, physician’s office, health insurance company, local ER) in multiple locations: on the fridge, in your wallet, in school/work bags, in your go-bag, and with your car registration papers.
  • Teach extended family and friends how to administer factor (called an infusion) to you in case you are unable to do it yourself.
  • Keep a family manual—a reference notebook containing pertinent medical information, directions on mixing and infusing factor, maps of your area showing the location of your HTC/hospital, important phone numbers, diagnosis and treatment regimens, and location of a backup HTC.
  • Keep an infusion log and take it with you in case you must evacuate your area.
  • Rotate supplies regularly according to expiration dates.
  • Program 1-800-42-HANDI (1-800-424-2634) and your HTC number into your home and cell phones in case you have to evacuate and need information on available HTCs in other areas.
  • Contact your local emergency management office or public health department for information on shelter-in-place and other safety procedures for your area.

Essential Items to Bring to the ER or Hospital

As a person with a bleeding disorder, you know that you could wind up in the hospital or emergency room (ER) suddenly. You can save time and avoid much stress if you show up prepared with an Emergency Care Letter and a go-bag filled with the necessary items.

Here is what is included in an Emergency Care Letter:

  • Your specific type of bleeding disorder and any other important diagnoses
  • Possible inhibitor status
  • Basic treatment guidelines
  • What you take to treat bleeds and the dosages you use
  • If you’re on prophylaxis, the type of factor and dosage
  • Any other medications you take
  • Any drug or food allergies you may have
  • Any additional information about the health care you need
  • Important contact names and information regarding your HTC

Your Go-Bag

In addition to your Emergency Care Letter, you will want to have a go-bag packed and ready at a moment’s notice for a trip to the hospital or ER.

Here’s what should be in your Go-Bag:

  • Your medication (factor, infusion supplies, etc)
  • Your health insurance card
  • An ice pack for your time in the waiting room
  • Extra clothes
  • Reading materials

Wearing a Medical Alert ID

Wearing a medical alert ID could save your life in an emergency. After a car accident or other serious injury, medical personnel need to know if an unconscious or noncommunicative person has a bleeding disorder. To ensure potentially life-saving time is not wasted, make sure your medical information is easy to find by wearing a medical alert ID. Be certain the ID is easy to see and identified as a medical alert ID—you don’t want emergency personnel to mistake your medical ID for a piece of jewelry and overlook the important information.

Although you don’t want your medical alert ID be mistaken for a piece of jewelry, you don’t have to sacrifice style completely. Many medical alert ID companies now make IDs in a variety of styles. For example, you can choose to wear a medical alert ID as a traditional metal necklace or bracelet, a beaded bracelet, a sports band, or a watch. Whichever look you choose, make sure the medical symbol and engraved information are prominent and easy to read.

Medical Tattoo – Think Twice!

You may have heard that some people with serious medical conditions tattoo their health information on the body. In general, tattoos are especially dangerous for people with bleeding disorders. Aside from health concerns, medical tattoos may not be that effective and are not recommended. Think about how big the tattoo would need to be to include all of the necessary information regarding your treatment. And what would you do if the information changes? Additionally, paramedics are trained to look for medical information on jewelry or on cards in wallets, not on tattoos.

For more information on tattoos and piercings, go to Body Art.

Keeping Extra Supplies On Hand

At any time, you should have enough of your medications, including factor and supplies, to last at least 2 weeks. In the event of a power outage, determine how you will store medicines that must be refrigerated. Establish a plan with your specialty pharmacy to receive your medications in the event of an emergency.

Emergency Preparedness for College Students

If you are a student living on a college campus, you have an immediate support network that can help you in case of an emergency. Think about whom you should inform about your bleeding disorder. (It could be anyone from roommate to your RA. Your close friends to the staff at the student health center.) You also may want to prepare an emergency kit in case a bleed occurs (and let someone, or a few people, know how to access it if you can’t).