Brief by Nancy Ward
Safety – January 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine
The Vial of Life is the newest project of Al King, sheriff of Saguache County. It’s aim is to save the lives of the elderly and others with on-going medical needs.
“The idea was started in Alamosa County,” King says. “I saw it working there and knew it was something we needed in Saguache County.”
The program involves placing a medical information form inside a container kept permanently in the refrigerator. “When our deputies, or ambulance personnel, or the fire department are called to provide help and save lives, we often have difficulty finding out the exact medical condition of those in need,” King explains. “The Vial of Life program will help us know how to take care of people in emergency situations.”
The refrigerator is available in almost every house, and its interior is one of the last places damaged by fire or other natural catastrophes, he says. Alamosa County uses a plastic medicinal container for information.
King is seeking donations of glass and tin containers, something as heat-resistant as possible so it can survive longer in a fire. The vial, about four inches high, will he labeled with a large red sticker so it’s easy to recognize when needed by ambulance attendants, caregivers, or peace officers. “Even empty mayonnaise jars will do,” King says. Sponsors are also needed to help pay for printing the labels.
The form inside will include personal identification, adverse health conditions, medications and dosages, whether the patient has a pacemaker, hearing aid, glasses, dentures, needs oxygen, etc., as well as the physician’s name, insurance coverage, and who should be notified. There is also a place to indicate whether the patient is an organ donor, has a living will, and where the documents are located.
As soon as the vials and labels are ready, King and his staff plan to distribute them at senior citizen and community meetings in each area of the county, and to explain the program. They’ll assist in filling out information forms if necessary.
King also urges seniors to talk daily with a specific “phone partner” to reduce the possibility of a prolonged need for medical attention when no one knows of the need, and he asks them to notify someone when they plan to be out of the house for several hours or days. Such measures help assure that aid is available when it’s needed. And now the Vial of Life project will further that goal.