Latrobe widower easing others’ burdens with emergency medical packets

November 10, 2018

When Paul Volkmann returned to his Latrobe home one day last April from a morning out, he found his wife, Teri Volkmann, collapsed on the floor.

“I called 911. The police and an ambulance crew arrived,” recalls Volkmann, 75.

A police officer soon told him his wife was deceased.

Noticing the family dog, who typically was very vocal, was not around, Volkmann went in search of the pet upstairs.

He found the dog, and medical personnel, he says, who were searching for his wife’s paper work and asking about her medications.

“I decided, after a couple weeks of thinking it over, that I wanted to change the system,” Volkmann says.

He saw a need, he says, for people’s medical information to be more easily accessible to medical care providers, whether in one’s home or upon arrival at a hospital.

Volkmann calls the Pennsylvania Yellow Dot Program, a free brochure one can fill out and keep in one’s vehicle, one of the state’s “best kept secrets,” believing much of the public at large is unaware it exists.

A yellow sticker placed on a vehicle’s rear window alerts first responders to check the glove compartment for vital medical attention following a traffic accident, according to the program’s website.

Volkmann takes the idea one step further. The emergency medical packet, as he calls it, includes additional information people can provide and place in a spot where it can easily be found by medical responders.

He recommends the refrigerator, to which he has taped his own white packet.

Efforts encouraged

Scot Graham, captain of special operations with Mutual Aid Ambulance Service, applauds any efforts to better provide information to emergency responders.

“You can ask somebody what medications they take, and they will give you a blank stare,” Graham says.

“We have an Envelope of Life,” he says, that provides a similar service.

And, like Volkmann suggests, the packet of medical and personal information is to be taped to individuals’ refrigerators.

The only caveat he issues is that the forms must be kept up to date.

He estimates 50 percent or more of patients “have something” detailing their medications, allergies, etc.

“It is information we definitely need to know. If you write it down, I’m getting the same information the hospital is getting. I think it would be fantastic if everybody would do that. The key is to write it down and update it,” Graham says.

Having to ask a patient “two questions,” he says, rather than “18 questions” is a whole lot better.

“It cuts down time,” Graham says.

More information, easier access

“I decided I’m going to put together a packet that would answer everything asked (at home) or at a hospital emergency room,” Volkmann says.

“People who go through the trauma of being transported (for treatment) ... don’t have the right mind to sit there and spit out answers,” he says.

Volkmann has used his own funds to prepare 100 of the emergency medical packets.

He has begun offering them to area employers, with the idea that one will be placed in a staff break room and individual copies can be made by interested employees.

“You put all your medical information in an envelope,” he says.

Volkmann includes a list of “directions,” which he says he worked on with a local attorney, instructing individuals to make multiple copies, in case one copy is removed or taken to a hospital during an emergency.

Effort inspired by love

The packets also remind people to have their physicians sign the Pennsylvania Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment form.

Also included are forms for a person’s medical history, including blood type, drug allergies, medications and doses, inoculations, surgeries and approximate dates of those procedures.

There is a health care power of attorney and living will and a Yellow Dot Program booklet as well.

Volkmann is adamant that the information be provided for all residents at one address.

“Everybody in the household -- from 2 years old to 82 years old -- has to have a packet,” he says.

Volkmann’s own packet came in handy when he fell ill in July. He called 911, grabbed his packet and handed it to responding medical personnel, he says.

“This has become a passion of mine. ... We have to change something in the system,” Volkmann says.

Making the provision of vital information easier can alleviate stress on a patient and medical providers, he believes.

“It helps others help you,” he adds.

“There was not one person I talked to that did not say, ‘This is a great idea,’ ” Volkmann says.

“I’m of the belief that everything happens for a purpose. (His wife) definitely inspired me to do this,” he says.

Employers interested in providing a packet for staff members to copy may contact Volkmann at 724-539-1951.

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