Woman’s bike accident underscores need for ID |

A woman’s bicycle accident on July 2 underscores the need for people to carry “in case of emergency” numbers or information cards in their wallets so that medics know whom to contact, according to people close to the incident.

Last month, Marcella Guerriero, 50, took a bad fall on her electric bicycle. She was heading home and had just passed the Vashon Sewer Treatment plant when she found herself on the gravel. She remembers little of the incident.

But what troubles her and some of the people who know her well is that she ended up in Harborview Medical Center with no one — from relatives to friends — knowing she was there. A chance call from her mother wishing her a happy Fourth of July alerted Guerriero’s family to the news.

“My mother called, and I said, ‘I’m in the hospital, and I don’t know why,’” Guerriero recalled. “For my poor 77-year-old mother to hear that — it was one of her worst nightmares.”

Her mother quickly called her Vashon landlords, booked a flight and came out to Vashon from the East Coast to act as her support person and advocate in the hospital. But Guerriero, who lives alone, wonders how long she might have been at Harborview without anyone knowing.

“God knows how long I could have been there and not seen anybody I know,” said Guerriero, a bookkeeper and face-painter.

In recent years, some advocates have called for “In Case of Emergency” phone numbers in cell phones, with “ICE” stickers, as they’re called, on the phones alerting emergency responders that they’ll find such a number in the phone.

On Vashon, Mark Brow-nell, the battalion chief of EMS at Vashon Island Fire & Rescue, said he’s not familiar with the ICE campaign, which has largely been a European effort. But once a patient is stabilized, he said, medics often go to great lengths to try to figure out whom to contact on the victim’s behalf.

“We do everything, from asking the patient to looking in their wallet for a card,” he said.

Cell phones are often helpful, he said; responders will sometimes look for a “home” number or a number identified as “mom” or “dad.” But it doesn’t always work. He recalled a car accident on Vashon last year when the victim was so badly injured that he and his partner feared she might die and tried to contact family members to gather around her. 

“We went to extraordinary lengths to try to find someone,” he recalled, noting they even tried to reach her ex-husband. 

She did survive, but to Brownell it underscored the need to include obvious “in case of emergency” information — either in a wallet or in one’s phone.

In Guerriero’s case, he’s not sure why no one tried to track down her relatives. It’s ultimately the hospital’s job, and Guerriero doesn’t know why Harborview didn’t search for a relative either.

But Guerriero, who today is recovering from traumatic brain injury from her fall despite the fact that she was wearing a helmut, is not unhappy with VIFR personnel. Michael Garvey, the medic who tended to her,  was wonderful, she said. He even came to the hospital a week later to visit her.

Indeed, she jokes, the good news is that she was saved “by a tall, dark, handsome hero. The worst part is that I don’t remember any of it.”

But she said she realizes she should have some sort of sticker on her phone, although she doubts she’ll have another bicycle accident again anytime soon.

“I’m terrified to get on a bicycle right now,” she said.



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