Wake up, emergency card!

Raising my four daughters was a lesson in keeping track of “things”. When my youngest was a baby, it was easy to know which socks were hers when mixed in with her older sisters’. But as they grew older and became similar in size, I had trouble keeping track of what socks and underwear went with each daughter. I ended up writing their initials on their underwear tags and on the tops of the toes of their socks. (If you wrote it on the bottom of the feet, the writing would rub off.) They were so embarrassed but accepting of this because there was no way they would be caught dead in a sister’s socks or underwear! When each one turned ten years old, I gave her a choice. “You can get your ears pierced, but you must now do your own laundry. Or you don’t get your ears pierced.” The strategy worked wonders for me and over time I had to worry only about the exponential loads of dirty bathroom towels.

My daughters were healthy kids, but every once in a while an ear infection would show up or some other “regular, normal childhood” illness that needed to be treated with prescribed medicine. As DNA would have it, they each developed different allergies. My oldest daughter is allergic to penicillin but all of her sisters can handle it just fine. My youngest daughter is allergic to sulfa meds and three other regularly prescribed antibiotics, but she can take penicillin. My third daughter cannot take Benadryl, even for allergic reactions. How ironic is that? To this day I don’t think my second daughter is allergic to anything.

If I couldn’t keep their socks and underwear straight, I knew there was no way I could keep track of the medicine allergies. So I wrote them all down on paper and put them in my wallet with my medical insurance cards. As time passed, on more than one occasion I found myself in a doctor’s office or urgent care center needing to call out a daughter’s specific medicine allergy.

Yesterday morning, my husband had emergency surgery to repair a torn retina in one of his eyes. It wasn’t at our usual clinic, so none of his medical records were accessible. As the nurse was preparing the paperwork, she asked my husband if he had any allergies. He is allergic to only one thing and we both know what that is. Easy to remember only one thing! Then the nurse asked, “What medicines are you on?” Uh oh. My husband and I looked at each other. He takes three medicines daily. We know what the medicines are for, but we haven’t a clue of their names without looking at the bottle and we surely don’t know the dosage. We stumbled through the answer enough to satisfy the nurse’s concerns, and proceeded on. He’s fine. His eye is fine. Life is good.

This morning, I pulled out that list I still carry in my purse with my daughters’ known allergies. I figure I created that list about twenty years ago. It’s dog-eared and has a few notes scribbled on it, but it’s still meeting its purpose. But I had to laugh. Two of my daughters are married and a third is currently living thousands of miles away going to graduate school in another country. Clearly I am no longer the person who would take them to a doctor if they were to become sick. And while my youngest daughter still lives at home, she’s twenty-one and “in charge” of her medical records. I thought about throwing away that well-worn list, but instead I put it back in my purse. (One never knows!) But this time I also added a list of my husband’s medicines and the dosages for each. Having that nurse ask her question was a wake-up call. Just because my kids are grown and on their own, that doesn’t mean the need for an emergency card has gone away.

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4 thoughts on “Wake up, emergency card!

  1. I got that message loud and clear when my parents started their downhill before each of their deaths. What meds are they on? What is the dosage? Had to know it all for hospitals, then rehab places, and then for in-home caregivers.

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