Advice from a Volunteer Firefighter with Adrenal Insufficiency
My name is Jeannie, and I have been diagnosed with Secondary AI since March of 2015. To make a long story short, I was diagnosed with a pituitary adenoma in Feb of 2015. It was apron 8mm x 10mm at the time wit was found. On April 25th, 2015 I was getting ready for work in the early morning hours.. I passed out in my bathroom and was immediately rushed to the hospital by my husband. They did a secondary MRI and found that the tumor had tripled in size to 23mm x almost 41mm. My Cortisol was also so low it was undetectable by the lab. I was taken by ambulance to Emory University hospital in Atlanta where the Neurosurgeon I had been in consult with was. I arrived there on Sunday and was in Surgery Wednesday Morning. The surgery took 9 hours and recovery was close to 6.
Prior to this all taking place I was a volunteer firefighter, and had worked EMS for almost 16 years. I have been in nearly every situation possible. I see so many people that have our condition asking about Medic Alert bracelets, What kind they should have, what it should say on it, etc. So I have put together a short list to help out a little bit. This is coming from both someone who has this extremely rare disease, and also from the Emergency Medical Side of me. Knowing what We as medics look for in the field, How quickly things move, what we ask or need to know, etc.
Please know that this IS NOT Professional Medical advice, But this is advice coming from someone who can shed some light on how to potentially save your life if you should ever be alone, or without anyone who knows your condition and you fall unconscious or are unable to the the responders what your condition is.
First off if you are looking for a medic alert bracelet or wondering if you should get one.
**The answer is yes, If you have been diagnosed ANY TYPE of adrenal insufficient or are on replacement medication.. YES. you need one.**
Here are some of those reasons and some pointers on what they should look like / what they should say.
#1– If you are found unconscious, and there are not bystanders around to tell emergency crews what is wrong with you, You will go longer without your steroids. If we see on your bracelet that you are steroid dependent, it dissolves the ENTIRE guessing game of why you’re unconscious.
#2– It should have on there your emergency contact and a GOOD telephone number. That way if nothing else. We can call them. NOT EVERY EMS AGENCY HAS ACCESS TO THE “CLOUD” BASED SYSTEMS THAT STORE YOUR INFO. Please be sure that if your emergency contacts number changes.. You change it on your bracelet. There is nothing worse than wasted time calling a number that doesn’t belong to the person we NEED to talk to.
#3– DO NOT MAKE IT “PRETTY” OR “NOT SO OBVIOUS”. I can not stress this enough. Ladies I know that you want the cute ones that look like normal bracelets, and have pretty charms, etc on them… THE ENTIRE point of a medical alert bracelet is that someone needs to see it and know that they should look at it. If it looks like a regular bracelet or regular necklace and it isn’t obvious within the first 3 seconds once we get to you and look in the obvious places (neck/wrist). it will NOT get seen. I promise you, we are too busy trying to play the guessing game of why you are not responding, than to take a look at every single piece of regular jewelry and see if it might have a really small inscribing of what is wrong with you. Once again. Make it noticeable. We will see that we need to look at it. Once we do. The guessing game is more than likely OVER. and we can begin to treat you appropriately.
#4– Most EMT’s and Paramedics Don’t Understand or know about Addisons or the treatment involved. If nothing else, carry a letter from your doctor explaining what is wrong with you, etc. It is very rare, and NOT covered in most Paramedic courses. So please, for those of you that put “ADRENAL INSUFFICIENT” on your bracelet and NOT “STEROID DEPENDENT” please keep in mind that you may end up with the Paramedic that just graduated, is nervous, and will mistake adrenal insufficiency for Adrenaline insufficiency.. and try to give you epinephrine. Please understand that I have seen this almost happen. It is something that is easily misunderstood in the heat of the moment.
#5– If you have an emergency injection that you carry with you all the time, on your person, or somewhere close. PUT ON THERE THAT YOU HAVE IT! MOST ems agencies have standing protocol that they can assist with emergency medications (Don’t jump in here if you are one of those states that doesn’t allow it.. I said most) That way if we find you down, and look at your bracelet, AND see that you have emergency meds with you… guess what now, not only is the guessing game over, You’re ALSO getting the RIGHT EMERGENCY MEDS, instead of us having to either give you what we carry, or you having to wait until you get to the ER and the ER doc has to go through your file and figure out that you need the medication that’s been in your pocketbook the ENTIRE TIME.If you are unsure if your state allows this, or if you Local EMS agency can do this. Contact their local medical control and ask. If they do, Please offer to give a small talk on what the disease is and how to use the emergency kit. Most will know once they see the acto-vial, but if they do not, Please educate them. Explain to them that it can be the only thing that could save your life.
Please take the time and make sure that you have correct information on your bracelet. Secondary or Primary, the treatment in an Emergency situation is the same. So there is NO need for you to spell out if you are secondary or primary. Both get the emergency injection in case of a crisis. Both get fluid bolus, heart and blood pressure monitoring. Nothing is different when it comes to an emergency situation. If you have any questions on the wording or what to get on it. Be sure you at least have an emergency contact, That you are steroid dependent, and where your emergency injection is located.
IF you know that your local EMS agency uses the “cloud” for stored emergency info, you can spend the money to get it. But I worked for service that covered a county with over 100 sq miles, and we didn’t use it. It is unreliable and takes too much time to log in to the system, try to read the small number on your band, type it in, etc. When you can simply put the information on the band itself.
If you have any other further questions, You can refer to AIU’s emergency page.