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Originally published in Castine Patriot, February 27, 2014
Over 40 sign up when “Vial of Life” comes to Castine

“Vial of Life” comes to Castine, Maine

In Castine, Maine Jessie Gunther fills out a Vial of Life” survey on February 22 for University of Maine nursing students (from left) Tom Gutow, Brian Coer, Mindy Grover, Meg Dionne and Renee Butler (obscured).

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

On the morning of Saturday, February 22, six University of Maine nursing students and their teacher offered free coffee and donuts in front of the post office—and something more lasting.

More than 40 residents brought home a “Vial of Life” pouch along with the day’s mail.

The “Vial of Life” is a form for basic health and medical information, a plastic pouch to place it in, and stickers to alert emergency responders to its presence at a residence they are called to. The form alerts responders to significant medical information in an emergency medical situation; the pouch is magnetized for easy placement on a refrigerator.

“I think it’s a great program,” said Mike Fay. “I have one for me and I have one for [wife] Susie.”

The project grew out of a community health assessment of Castine the students completed last year.

The assessment looked at “the assets and limitations of the town, and looked for a project to close [any] gap” said Associate Professor of Nursing Elizabeth Bicknell, who led the students’ class in community health, leadership and management.

The Vial of Life was based on the students’ own assessment of the data they discovered, such as the loss of the ambulance service, the demographical age of the population, and the fact that “community involvement is immense around here,” said student Meg Dionne.

Student Renee Butler was familiar with a similar program started in the Winterport area by her grandfather, a volunteer firefighter.

“This helps information be ready in the case of an emergency,” she said. “It actually helped when my grandfather had a massive heart attack.”

Castine Fire and Rescue and the Castine Volunteer Fire Department helped fund the project. Tom Gutow—Castine resident, volunteer firefighter, emergency medical technician and nursing student—suggested Castine to his fellow students for the initial community health assessment project, and they agreed.

“It’s a nice town with a pretty good history and a tight knit community,” said student Brian Coer.