2016-09-01 / Around Town

Lifesaving Messages in a Bottle

By James Merolla

In a private community in Portsmouth, the most important patio brick is the one shown above, which alerts EMT's of vital health information within the home. (Photo by James Merollo) In a private community in Portsmouth, the most important patio brick is the one shown above, which alerts EMT's of vital health information within the home. (Photo by James Merollo) When someone moves into a new home, neighbors often greet them with fresh baked cookies or a plant as a sign of hospitality. While the days of the Welcome Wagon bringing business coupons, maps, and other information are long gone, the hospitality and social committee at Prescott Point on the Portsmouth-Middletown line is ready for newcomers.

They are all set to welcome new members of the community with open arms and the usual amenities: an information packet, a map, and an array of gifts.

On the unusual side, they also offer an oversized vial designed to hold life-saving information, and a varnished brick.

The welcoming committee – co-chaired by Fran Mellios and Linda Lucksinger, with Barbara Goral, Linda DiNovella, Francine Lucci and Judy Harris – has coordinated a program to offer these last two slightly unorthodox items at no cost to residents.

Called the Vial of Life program, it is designed to assist first medical responders in Portsmouth for the mostly 55-and-older anticipated occupants who, according to the committee, will be moving into the remaining units (some of which are still under construction) at Prescott Point by the end of the year.

Vial of Life is identified by a special brick placed by the front door of each participating condo, which will present first responders with a wealth of information should a medical emergency arise. The light brown shiny markers indicate that a vial (a large prescription bottle containing a medical form for each condo resident) can be found inside, placed securely in the refrigerator.

It might also contain a Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (MOLST), which includes an individual’s past medical history, current medical problems, and medications – anything that would help the EMTs.

Since it also provides hospitals with clear instructions for those who have chosen not to be resuscitated or placed on life support, the MOLST documentation – signed by both the resident and medical personnel – is a far more vital document than a mere medical form.

Mellios said the vial program has been around for about 30 years. She learned about it from a good friend in Middleborough, Massachusetts, where it was made available to local residents through a joint effort by the local senior center and the fire department.

“First responders can go into the fridge and get the entire medical history,” Mellios explained. “Oftentimes during an emergency situation, people aren’t in the right frame of mind to give accurate information. You can get very frazzled. I’ve been in that situation; I couldn’t even remember how to dial 911.”

Lucksinger added, “Especially if your spouse – or whomever – is on multiple medications and you’re trying to remember what it is he or she is taking, and what the dosage is, it is already right there.”

The program is free to all Prescott Point residents, thanks to the local Rite Aid pharmacy. The committee hopes that other communities will follow their example, as well as the role model of some local businesses: The labels for the vials and bricks were donated by Gary Jefferds, owner of IS3ENOUGH Design of Portsmouth.

None of this could have happened without the approval and blessing of the Portsmouth Fire Department. Many times first responders enter a home with little or no medical information. Deputy Fire Chief Michael O’Brien visited Prescott Point to better understand the program, and was pleased with what he saw.

“This is going to make them a little bit safer,” he said, “and allow us to do our job better. There are no negatives.”

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