When an emergency strikes, are you ready?

An emergency evacuation makes you realize you have a lot of junk, so you save a few photos and other memories. Most things can be replaced.

Steven, Getty Fire evacuee

The California wildfires in the last few weeks have wreaked havoc everywhere. Numerous friends of ours were evacuated from their homes in the middle of the night when the Getty fire started. I started thinking about what would I do? Am I prepared? What do you take with you when you don’t know when you will be able to return to your home?

Several of the boxers in my PD boxing class live in the hills above the Getty Center and did not come to our classes last week. When I saw Steven on Tuesday, I asked if he had been evacuated, knowing that he lived in that area. He looked visibly shaken by the experience, which he said was a nightmare. His home is above where the fire started and he could see it spread quickly.

The fire began around 2:00 am. The police came minutes later with their sirens blaring to tell people to leave their homes immediately. Steven does not recall whether he was awakened by the police or by the smell of smoke from the nearby fire.

The first thing he did was call a neighbor to find out where she was going. Her doctor’s office in nearby Santa Monica was open in the middle of the night for those who had to flee. Then Steven and his family gathered up their kids and he went in search of his PD meds. After shoving everything into a bag, they left and headed down the hill to the doctor’s office, ahead of the flames.

Once they were safely out of the area, Steven realized that he did not have his wallet, which meant no ID, credit cards, cash, and more. He could not go back home to get it. He said the experience was very disorienting, and the only thing he could think about was to take was his Parkinson’s meds with him.

The next morning, Steven and his family moved into a friends home for the duration, not knowing when or if they could get back into their home. He says that they were very fortunate to have friends with a luxurious, comfortable home that was big enough for Steven’s family and another family they were all friends with. The only alternatives were local hotels which were very expensive or community centers.

The evacuation was disorienting, as Steven said, and also crazy and nervewracking. They did not know if they would be out for 2 days or a week. After 2 days, he was allowed to go back to his home with a police escort to retrieve some things. Because they were with very good friends during this ordeal, they had some good laughs, and even some gallows humor. So this trip back to the house to get things they needed was dubbed “the trip to get everything of value before the house burns down!” The winds were expected to shift that night and turn the fire towards his home. But they got lucky, the winds died down and so did the fire. Steven said that an emergency like this makes you realize that you have a lot of junk. You need to save a few photos and things that are valuable or are memories. Most things can be replaced. Two days later, after 4 days with friends, the family was allowed to move back home.

How did all of this affect Steven’s Parkinson’s Disease? He said the whole experience is more difficult for people with health issues because they have much more to deal with. He was more disoriented than usual, as he stated earlier, which was probably a combination of PD and crisis. It did not increase his shaking and because he thought clearly enough to take his meds with him, he never missed a dose. Between taking care of everything with his family and the terrible air quality from the fires, exercise was not possible. Overall, Steven feels that he got though all of it ok.

The one thing that was missing in all of this was an Aware in Care Kit that is provided by the Parkinson’s Foundation for free. If Steven had one he may not have forgotten his wallet. The Aware in Care kit has forms to fill out with your medications and other important information. There is also room to keep bottles of all of your prescription medicines. I keep prescription bottles with about 4 days of meds in mine for emergencies. As long as you have the prescription bottles, you can always get refills. I also use my kit when I go on vacation because it is ready to go with everything in one place. For more information or to order yours, click here.

We are thankful that only a few homes were destroyed in the Getty fire and that Steven and our other friends who had been evacuated have returned home. Let’s hope that this is the last of California’s devastating fires this year.

You’ve fallen and you can’t get up. Now what?

“Help!  I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

Remember that commercial from several years ago?  It was everywhere.  It was for Life Call, an emergency alert system for elderly people.  That commercial was from 2007.  I couldn’t remember what the company was and had to look it up.  That memorable line is most likely lurking in every Parkie’s head.  What if I fall?  How can I get help?

That happened to a Parkie friend of mine last week.  Fortunately she was at home one evening with her husband, when she slipped and fell.  The next morning, she discovered that she could not walk.  Her husband called an ambulance to take her to the ER.  Barbara was taken to a very well known hospital in Los Angeles and things went downhill from there.

What went wrong?  For starters, she did not have a list of her medications.  The paramedics wanted to give her morphine, although they had no idea if it would interact with her meds.  She refused the morphine. When she asked for her meds, she was told that the pharmacy at the hospital did not have what she needed, and furthermore, wasn’t familiar with the two medications, Rytary and Mirapex.  She happened to have one Rytary in her purse and had to take it when no hospital personnel were around, because it was not in the prescription bottle.

I got an email from her the next morning, the subject line:  Oy vey, get me out of here!   I went to visit her, and she was shaking like a leaf, most likely a combination of stress and no PD meds.  Fortunately she went home later that afternoon, but the experience was a nightmare.

I asked Barbara if she had any emergency information on her phone.  She did not, and had never thought about it.  For those of you who are iPhone users, there is an app called Apple Health that allows you to enter all of your medications, doctors, emergency contacts, etc.  I am sure that there are many more apps out there for Android and iPhones, but this is the one that I use.

I have several recommendations for you, which are also good for travel.

  1.  Your phone is your best friend.  Put all of your health info on an app on your phone.  And make sure that someone (spouse, caregiver) can access the app if you can’t do it yourself.
  2. Make sure that you list Parkinson’s Disease, and any other health conditons you have, along with drug and food allergies somewhere on your phone.
  3.  Keep a detailed list of your medications, including non-prescription drugs and supplements
  4. If you do not have a smart phone, print or type a list of all of the above information and keep it with your ID or Driver’s Liscence.  Keep an extra copy at home.
  5.  Pack an emergency bag and keep it where it is easily accessible.  Include several days doses of your meds in the original prescription bottles.  You might want to keep your empty bottles and put enough pills to last several days in them.    Just make a note to refresh the meds every few months.
  6. If you live alone, make sure that you have some kind of emergency alert system.
  7. Thank you to Tom Eckhardt for reminding me about the Aware-in-Care kit from the Parkinson’s Foundation.  The kit takes care of everything I mentioned and more.

Do you have any other suggestions?  I will add them to the list which I will keep it posted on my website.