Most people wouldn’t consider being a musician a high-risk job. We’re not firefighters, high-steel construction workers, coal miners, or any other jobholders who literally face the risk of serious injury or death on a daily basis. But that doesn’t mean we’re immune to hazards.
Many of us spend a lot of time driving to and from gigs—often very late at night, when we’re fatigued and when many other drivers are coming home from a night of drinking. So being involved in a traffic accident is a very real and frightening possibility. Those of us who spend a lot of time “on the road” find ourselves performing in cities where no one knows anything about us. If we were to suffer an injury on a gig, or a medical emergency in our hotel room, it’s possible that no one would be able to provide our health history to emergency personnel.
Any serious medical emergency is compounded by the risk of improper medical care. And I’m not talking about malpractice or negligence here. I have great respect for the medical profession, and I believe that doctors and paramedics do an amazing job at saving people’s lives every day. But to do that, they need as much information as possible about their patients.
While I was working as an editor at Modern Drummer magazine we received a letter from a drummer who suffered from epilepsy. In it he described a terrifying incident in which he suffered a seizure. The paramedics that responded mistakenly interpreted his seizure as symptomatic of substance abuse. He was taken to a local emergency room, where he received no further treatment. Fortunately, his seizure abated, and he suffered no further ill effects from the incident.
But stories like that don’t always turn out even that well. On April 24, 1992 the great Larrie Londin (known for his Nashville studio drumming as well as for his phenomenal work on ex-Journey singer Steve Perry’s Street Talk album) suffered a heart attack while conducting a drum clinic at the University of North Texas. Rumor has it that his condition was worsened by the inadvertent administration of medication that his body could not tolerate because he was diabetic. Following four months in a coma, Larrie passed away on August 24, at the age of only forty-eight. The story is made more tragic by the fact that Larrie supposedly wore a “medic alert” bracelet identifying his condition—but had removed it while playing at his clinic.
You might not suffer from such severe medical conditions as diabetes or epilepsy. But you might be asthmatic. You might have food sensitivities. You might have allergies to medication that could prove fatal if you aren’t able to inform medical personnel about them.
Remember, when you’re away from home and family—on the road, at a local club, or just driving home from a wedding gig—you are at risk for medical emergencies. If you have any condition that would affect the care you should receive, obtain appropriate “medic alert” identification, and wear it at all times. There are lots of choices available, ranging from fairly masculine watches, stainless-steel bracelets, and even classic “dog tags” to jeweled “charm”-type bracelets and attractive necklaces. Many of these can be custom engraved with emergency information such as your name, medical condition, medications, emergency phone contact, doctor’s number, and life-threatening allergies.
In addition, if you take prescription medications regularly, carry a list of those meds, along with information on what they’re for and who prescribed them. Type it up in small print on a computer, print it out, and then put it in the same place your keep your personal identification and medical-insurance cards. Here’s an example:
Prescription med regimen
ACIPHEX 20 mg 1 @ 1X daily heartburn Dr. Irving Klein 781-555-0090
LOVAZA 1 capsule 4 @ 1X daily triglycerides Dr. Michael Jones 781-555-5566
NIASPAN 500 mg 1 @ 1X daily cholesterol Dr. Michael Jones
BENICAR 20-12.5 mg 1 @ 1X daily blood pressure Dr. Michael Jones
WELCHOL 625 mg 3 @ 2X daily cholesterol Dr. Michael Jones
These simple precautions are easy and inexpensive to implement. But they’re vital to your self-protection. In fact, they just might save your life.
Until next time: Stay safe out there!
Rick Van Horn