South Hills vial program can be a genuine lifesaver in emergencies
By Bill Zlatos
Published: Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, 9:20 p.m.
Bonnie Critchlow was eating breakfast at her home in Castle Shannon two years ago when her blood sugar dropped to half of what it should be. She went to the bedroom and collapsed.
Fortunately, her husband and daughter were there to tell paramedics what medications she was taking. After that, she became a booster of the Vial of Life program, which puts free, oversized vials storing a person's key medical information in the refrigerator where an ambulance crew knows where to find it.
Now she and her husband, Robert, share a vial.
“I feel more comfortable that it's all written down and our community, our emergency medical technicians know,” said Bonnie Critchlow, 68. “Every community should do this.”
Vial of Life started last summer in the South Hills when Kevin's Pharmacy in Castle Shannon donated and distributed about 2,000 bottles.
“It looks like a bottle of Milk of Magnesia. Nothing else would look like this in your refrigerator. It's big enough to be noticeable, but small enough to work around,” said Thomas Tritinger, a pharmacist at Kevin's Pharmacy working to expand the program with the help of the American Red Cross, retirement homes and others.
The vials do not contain any pills, but rather sheets with such information as the name of the person's doctor, preferred hospital, health insurance, allergies, existing and previous medical problems and emergency contacts.
“It gives us a guide as to what problems they have currently and why we have to be there that particular day,” said John Moses, assistant director of Medical Rescue Team South.
Patients can tell paramedics from Medical Rescue Team South that they have a Vial of Life. If the patient is not conscious, the paramedics know that they should look in the refrigerator.
Ross/West View Emergency Medical Services has participated in a similar program for the past four years. Paramedics encourage senior citizens to enclose their medical information in a plastic bag attached by a magnet to the outside of their refrigerator. A decal attached outside the door tells paramedics to look at the refrigerator for the health information.
Scott Garing, supervisor of EMS group, said at least 1,000 people have the decals.
“Nobody thinks anything is going to happen to them, but if you're passed out on the floor ... the paramedics or first responders have an opportunity to find out what medications you are on and give you the proper treatment,” said Mike Warhold, a Castle Shannon Councilman who is president of the Castle Shannon Redevelopment Corp., which distributes medical supplies such as canes, walkers and the vials to people in need.
The American Red Cross of Southwestern Pennsylvania distributes the vials as part of its Safe Neighbors program, which prepares people for emergencies. The agency focused on getting the vials into homes of the elderly.
“Hopefully, this is something we could see happening across our entire region,” said Lauren Ashley, spokeswoman for the local chapter.
Critchlow thinks the concept is such a good idea she began volunteering for the cause. She has filled hundreds of bottles with information sheets while watching Steelers games.
“In fact,” she said last week, “I have another box in my car to fill.”
Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Man found fatally shot in Larimer a mile away from Homewood peace march
- Newsmaker: Toni Silva
- Work on tournament-class dek hockey rink in Bloomfield to begin
- Officials ID Elizabeth Township man as West End train victim
- Everest avalanche kills 12 in peak’s deadliest climb
- South Fayette mother wants case against bullied son to be dropped
- Bullied South Fayette student’s case prompts wiretap overhaul legislation
- May retreat to offer support for Western Pa. military veterans, spouses
- Legal experts question prosecuting South Fayette boy for recording bullies
- New Mexican War Streets grocer connects with North Side neighborhood
- Heir of ‘Great Renegade’ Girty preserves history of Squirrel Hill settlers