There is a special diagnostic procedure that us seasoned medical professionals use.
“Handbag medicine”.

To the lay bystander it may seem that we are standing over the unconscious (or merely uncooperative) patient, rooting through their belongings, looking for something expensive to steal. For women this is normally a handbag, for men you will find us going through their wallet.

But! It is not true that we are seeking to boost our wages (meagre though they are), instead, dear reader, we are trying to help the patient.

If the patient is unconscious then we need to get as much information as possible, and one way of doing this is to go down their possessions.

The best thing that we can find is a card that is big, bright, hard to overlook with “I have epilepsy” written on the front (with the patient's name, date of birth and next of kin contacts written on the back).

The next best thing is often an address book/diary, it's especially helpful if the patient has filled in the front “personal details” bit.

At a pinch we can use our detective skills with envelopes (opened and unopened), credit cards, GP slips, prescription forms (often very helpful), immigration or asylum documents (popular in this area) and (also popular in this area) court summons.

So, an East Anglian Paramedic Bob Brotchie has come up with a rather good idea, given that people today, (myself included) seem wedded to our mobile phones.


Basically you put the details of the person you would like contacted In Case of Emergency into your phone under the name 'ICE'.

It's a good idea, and the drawbacks (the phone might be broken or separated from the patient) are the same drawbacks as anything that you would write on a piece of paper.

So, do it today!

True, if you are seriously injured enough, then we won't be rooting around your mobile phone (we'd be actually treating you), but it'd help the staff in the hospital when they get a quiet moment.

There have been hoax emails going around saying that if you put ICE into your phone then you get your phone credits drained away. This is absolutely a hoax.

This has been a public service announcement.

11 thoughts on “Handbags”

  1. Its a good idea, but what happens when you have a phone you have password secured such as mine.. After 30 mins it auto-sets a password as some extra security.Maybe an idea to stick it on a label inside the battery cover with the word ICE on the outside. hmm I need to think about this!

  2. I heard about this about a month or 2 ago and think its a great idea. If you have Bluetooth or infrared enabled on your phone it IS possible for you to get a virus, but all you need to do is deactivate bluetooth whenever you are not using it. Easy enough if you're just downloading stuff to it.

  3. What about those of us that don't use Nokia phones….I show people my MDA Compact PocketPC/Phone and they are lost as to what it is, what it does or how to use it!

  4. Im a diabetic, I donth ave ICE on my fone, but I have a necklace (Medicalert type thing) – I assume paramedics will look at that before rooting through my fone and my possesions?

  5. First thing I look for – but not a lot of people have them.The post was originally inspired by my going to an epileptic earlier in the day, thinking “Well she *looks* like an epileptic”, and after a few basic checks to make sure she wasn't going to die, I dove straight into her handbag.

    Got a few funny looks when doing that…

  6. Thats a very cunning idea. I am even now searching for a bit of brightly coloured card as I am quite allergic to penicillin – it has an unfortunate tendency to kill me – and erythromycin too. Fun stuff!

  7. I have done this but had a problem as my phone wouldn't allow multiple contact listings with the same number. Simple solution:add +44 to the front of the number (UK only), does the same but the phone sees it as a different number.

    Another tip, if the ICE number you add calls a relative at work make sure you add their real name so the friendly paramedic can ask for them.

    I have now got 4 ICE numbers in my phone, first to to ring my wife at work then her cell phone then our home phone then if all else fails my parents.

  8. That's fine if your chosen contact happens to live with you, and spends all day sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring.Lots of people will prefer to tell someone who doesn't live with them, or who is more easily contacted on a different number.

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