When a medical crisis occurs, emergency response personnel need information fast. And that's when the Vial of Life comes in handy.
The Stanford Hospital-based program, Vial of Life, allows paramedics to access medical data stored in a vial on the top shelf of the door of the refrigerator in the victim's home.
Vial of Life provides interested residents with a blank medical information form, a vial to store the form and a red sticker to place on the refrigerator to alert personnel that the information vial is inside.
"Sometimes knowing about the patient's medical condition can mean the difference between life and death when minutes are precious," said Joan Raiter, coordinator of Stanford Hospital and Clinics Vial of Life program.
Information stored within the vial includes: medications being taken, medical conditions, advanced directives, the name of clergy and relatives or others who should be notified promptly in an emergency.
Paramedics and fire personnel are encouraged by the community around Stanford University and the Vial of Life program to routinely check the refrigerator door to see if the person being rescued has the medical information stored inside.
A refrigerator is used to store the vial because it's the easiest and simplest object to locate in a house and find information, said Jeanne Kennedy, director of the Office of Community and Patient Relations at Stanford Hospital and Clinics.
The vials were first introduced in January 1997. To date, 32,000 vials have been distributed throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties by the Stanford program.
"Publicity has been mainly word of mouth," Raiter said.
"We are in the process of distributing the vials to as many people as we can. We have had a surprising amount of reorders."
Even though Vial of Life began as a senior outreach program, it's not limited to seniors.
"The program will benefit anyone living alone who has no one with them to respond in an emergency," Raiter said.
Vial of Life kits are free and available through Stanford's Health Libraries and Lifeline, senior centers, health care organizations and other community agencies such as fire departments and the Salvation Army.
The Vial of Life concept has not only been supported locally. The idea is sponsored by hospitals, communities and civic organizations in various locations throughout the country.
Raiter is optimistic about the future of the Vial of Life program, "My goal is to make distribution so all seniors, in the Santa Clara and San Mateo counties have access to a Vial of Life," she said. "Getting the word out is the main obstacle."
For more information, call 723-7167.