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Program is resuscitated – Plastic bottles have potential to save lives

Western Nevada County’s firefighters and paramedics now have a helping hand when responding to a medical emergency, and all you have to do to benefit is fill out a form and stick it in your refrigerator.

Volunteers at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and local emergency responders have resuscitated the “Vial of Life” program.

“This can absolutely save lives,” Grass Valley Fire Capt. Loray Johnston said. “When I respond to the home and the patient is unable to speak, I have got a lot of information (if they have a vial). We are a step ahead with the patient’s medical information.”



To make it work, residents get a free packet – that includes a form for medical information, two stickers, a storage tube and a key chain – from their local fire station.

The form gets filled out and placed inside the tube, which goes inside the refrigerator. One of the stickers goes on the outside of the refrigerator. The other sticker goes on the outside of the resident’s front door, so emergency responders know to look in the refrigerator for the medical information.




A copy of the form and the keychain can go inside a vehicle, in case of a crash.

“If (paramedics or firefighters) see the sticker on the door, they go right for the refrigerator,” said Sierra Nevada volunteer Marge Hayes. “The vial then goes to the hospital with them.

“You can’t think in these situations sometimes,” she said. “Anyone in a panic situation will forget some important information. This removes the pressure of having to know everything off the top of your head.”

Hayes, who has been a volunteer at Sierra Nevada for two years, was instrumental in updating the program. While it existed previously, it was outdated and not publicized. Many people did not know about it, she said.

So Hayes and other volunteers spoke with doctors and nurses at the hospital before going to Grass Valley Fire Chief Hank Weston.

“He got the ball rolling,” Hayes said. “He offered to go to the Law Enforcement and Fire Protection Council.”

The council quickly agreed, Weston said, and funded the first 5,000 vials, at about $1 each.

“This benefits not just the individual (patient) but the first responder,” Weston said. “This has a lot of appeal, and it is a community benefit.”

All first responders in western Nevada County have been trained to recognize the vials, he said, and all local, staffed fire stations will have a box of packets for distribution. They will be distributed to pharmacies in the future.

The service is free for everyone, but anyone who wants to donate supplies or money for the next set of Vial of Life packets may do so.


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