Health Inventions Save Lives

life tube

How the ‘Life Tube’ and ‘Health Passport’ can save your life

By Jim Webber
Seen one of these puppies?
The Life Tube is one of three new health inventions which could save lives – and will certainly improve health outcomes. All the new measures help to improve access to health services.
Others include:

  • the Health Passport, a 16-pager designed by the Health and Disability Commissioner and based on a UK version;
  • the Disability Icon which attaches to the medical files of people with impairments or disabilities.

All three are very different. Life Tube is an Age Concern initiative – a compact home for your emergency details (doctor, prescriptions, allergies, next of kin). It’s kept in the fridge and comes with a LIFE TUBE sticker for the fridge door. Not mentioned, but worth keeping in mind, is that there’s space in it for a few emergency pills. Some of us have to have a few pills each day to stay alive. The Life Tube costs $5 from Kapiti Age Concern. It’s an easy thing to grab if you have to leave home in a hurry – earthquake, fire, ambulance.

Health Passport is an A5 diary-size file, chatty and helpful, but not that easy to find and carry. It doesn’t have a specific medications list and is bigger than a real passport. Promoted by the three regional District Health Boards and available free from hospitals and some medical centres.
The Disability Icon is an alert than can be attached to your medical files on request. Everyone with a disability should seek its inclusion: Phone the DHBs’ Service Integration Development Unit at 04 8062434 and ask for a Disability Alert application form. The international “wheelchair” icon reminds hospital staff that you have a disability and might need special responses if your impairment is not obvious. Example: If you go to hospital by ambulance and can’t use public transport to return home, you may have a problem – particularly if you live in Kapiti.
Transport options
It’s wise to think about both the transport options and also the possible problems of going into hospital without vital information with you or in your medical file.
Post-polios, for instance, generally need less anaesthetic than others: When I went in for a hernia repair my last thought, before the fentanyl turned the operating lights into tadpoles, was that I should have mentioned it to the anaesthetist. The lingering effects kept me off cryptic crosswords for two weeks.
Transport home to Kapiti can be difficult unless you have an arrangement in place, particularly if you’re visually or mentally impaired or use a wheelchair. No other centre with Kapiti’s population is as far from a regional hospital.
The Kapiti-based Red Cross shuttle can carry a folding wheelchair, as can some of the Kapiti Carers vehicles. Both volunteer-staffed services carry more than 2000 patients a year to and from hospital.