Vial of Life

Hanford firefighter Jessie Singh and Capt. Matthew Rowe hold up a Vial of Life kit, which can aid first responders to help save lives by cutting down time spent for patient assessment.

Sentinel staff

HANFORD – Four months ago, Hanford firefighter Jessie Singh responded to an emergency call where he struggled to get information from a patient, information that was needed to assist them.

The caller, who he later found out had dementia, wasn’t able to tell Singh medical history or other vital information that may have been the difference in life or death in certain situations. The person was also alone with no family members there that could have relayed that information as well.

That experience made Singh, who is also a part-time paramedic, think of ways that he could help people give fire responders information they could use to help in cases of emergencies.

Singh remembered a program in the Bay Area called Vial of Life and thought it could be used in Hanford.

"It had been in the back of my head," Singh said. "But that experience really made me push this."

Singh has helped bring that program to Hanford and it is now being used by the Hanford Fire Department.

With Vial of Life, members of the community can pick up a free kit that's in a small plastic bag from various fire stations. The kit includes a personal worksheet for people to fill out with information on their medical history, medications taken and allergies. Another sheet also gives instructions and other information that can be included, such as a recent picture, copies of EKGs, living wills and do-not-resuscitate orders.

After filling the worksheet out, users put the kit on their refrigerator and place a sticker on their front window or door so if a first responder is ever called, the sticker will signal them the information is there.

“One of the first things we do is start a medical assessment,” said Hanford fire Capt. Matthew Rowe when they arrive following an emergency call. “Just having that information at hand can make a difference.”

Singh agreed.

“When we go through training, we’re taught time is muscle,” Singh said. “If we don’t have to go through the steps of asking someone their medical history step-by-step, that can save minutes and could possibly save more lives. It just helps with patient care.”

Rowe said the program is geared toward those with dementia or conditions where it could be tough to relay information. But it also helps for when a person is unconscious or unresponsive.

“It may be geared toward older people, but it can help anybody,” Rowe said. “That’s why we wanted to bring it to the community.”

This past week, the Hanford Fire Department teamed with multiple local churches to go door-to-door handing out the free kits as part of Serve Day.

Rowe said they were able to hand out about 300 of the kits with the hopes of being able to give out as many as possible.

While the program is in its early stages, Rowe said the department is working on tweaks, such as having the kits at more stations. Singh said they believe to be the only department in the Valley to have started the program.

“We want to get as many people signed up as possible,” Singh said.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2431 or jbutters@HanfordSentinel.com. Follow him on twitter @jsbutters.

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