The following was submitted by an author who wished to remain anonymous…

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare: standing by helplessly as your child struggles to breathe. The EMTs rush into the room with their giant bags and a stretcher, firing off stats and rapid questions to those nearby. The kid turns blue, eyes sliding shut. They start CPR, and you watch as the little body jumps with each push on his chest.

This was the scene a week ago in my son’s preschool class. His eight classmates all have health and developmental problems ranging from moderate to severe, and the class exists to help them catch up with their peers. Among the ailments are brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, autism, and cancer in remission. The little boy who stopped breathing had been acting a little funny earlier that day, but was not feverish or sick – not five minutes earlier, he was happy and playing alongside my son at the train table.

I looked away to help another kiddo find an orange crayon, and then all of a sudden, shouting and semi-controlled chaos. Then 911. Then the EMTs. Then, the oxygen rushed out of the room and I think those of us parents and teachers on duty collectively held our breaths as the rest of the children were herded off to neighboring classrooms for safekeeping.

The mom on duty that day was the victim’s mother. She was not calm. Her hands shook almost to the point where she bobbled her entire purse while searching through it. Tears rolled down her cheeks when the EMTs rushed in and removed her boy’s hand from hers so that they could work on him. Still. She had the presence of mind to pull a well-worn, thread-bound book that is quite familiar to me: It was an orchid-colored, soft-covered Leuchtturm 1917. The elastic was pulled down over the bottom left corner, holding a pen to the spine. It was a Bullet Journal.

Grasping the last few pages, she shredded them away from the threaded spine and held them out to the EMT asking her questions. She shook her head and sobbed, “I can’t…I can’t…”

“I have a pulse,” the other EMT announced, while the guy in charge looked over the papers in astonishment. I sat down next to the mom and put my arm around her shoulders – this could easily be my child on the floor, I thought. Any of our children in this classroom.

The mom told him shakily what was on the paper, “His dosages and meds, his specialists and file numbers, phone numbers, allergies.” She sucked in a breath, “Seizure log. There’s a seizure log in there,” she said. I squeezed hers shoulders in support; mine has seizures too. She rattled off his birthday as they stabilized him for transportation.

The EMT just shook his head and said to her, “Thank you. This is exactly what we need to help him. I have to call this in.” And he pulled out his phone to do just that, rattling off vital information to whomever he was speaking with. She rode in the ambulance with her son; I watched as they banged the back doors shut and sped off, lights and sirens at full.

I hugged my son a little harder that night, and then sat down, and wrote a new spread in my own journal with emergency information, medications and dosages, a seizure log, phone numbers, file numbers, and an allergy list. Over the course of this evening, I went through an entire box of tissues before I called her cell. “He’s okay,” she told me. “The doctor said that the info the EMTs sent ahead allowed them to act fast. He’s going to be okay. He’s okay,” she repeated again, choked and hoarse, but I could hear the gratefulness in her voice.

My son’s friend has returned to school, and carries a tiny oxygen cylinder in a tiny oxygen cylinder backpack. He’s adorably sad about having to carry it. But he’s alive, happy, and whole, which is all a parent can really ask for their children. I’ve also noticed that the other parents are now carrying notebooks of their own, presumably with the vitals necessary to help their kids in them.
No one thinks that the next child in the next ambulance could be theirs, or that their elderly mother may have an emergency fall, or that after a car accident, one may not be able to remember all of the vital information needed to treat their family members safely in the hospital. But let’s be honest here… we all know someone who has needed that information recently. We all have passed the accident on the highway. We all have had that momentary lapse in memory when asked something about ours or our children’s medical records. Write it down. Keep it with you. Be prepared to commit the ultimate Bujo sin and rip it out in an emergency situation. You could save a life – your own, your child’s, your sister’s, your father’s…. Being organized could be the difference between life and death.

image: Michał ParzuchowskiSopot, Poland

About Ryder Carroll

Ryder is the creator of the Bullet Journal. He's a Brooklyn-based digital product designer and art director.
  • As a former EMT, I can confirm that a list like this can really help.
    As an anxious person, the first thing i always put in my bullet journal is a large post-it note in the front of with my medication and emergency contact info. It’s already come in handy once in a minor emergency, Good tip, good post!

  • CE User

    Wonderful post – I’m so glad this little guy is OK!
    Having all the necessary information ready to go at one’s fingertips is vitally important. I kept a notebook with everything relating to my dad’s care as he went from multiple hospitalizations to what was supposed to be short-term rehab to long term skilled nursing. I can’t tell you how many times I pulled my list of med dosages & tests, doctor visit histories and chronological journal during his last 2 years. Dad had suffered a stroke several years before which rendered him almost completely incapable of advocating for himself, so having all the information at my fingertips helped, especially during 3 am ER admissions.

    • Tom Bruning

      I am a volunteer for an organization called “United Rescue” in Jersey City, NJ, and I have been a “Bullet Journaler” for 2 months. I hardheartedly agree that having medical information readily available is important when time saves lives. I have been an Evernote user for years and all of my information, as well as my wife’s is easily available on my phone. I haven’t had to use it, but knowing it is close by is certainly comforting. When I respond to calls in my community I can’t say how many times I’ve asked the patient, or the patient’s family for this information and it comes to me sporadically, and often times it is incomplete. I don’t call it in, but give it to the EMTs when they arrive to save them the time to gather the information. I’m going to put it in my Bullet Journal, with a copy in the tear-off pages in back so I don’t have to ruin the journal to save my, or my wife’s life.
      Thanks for the post, if people take it to heart it will save lives.

    • Elaine S. Hansen

      CE User – I can relate. Almost 20 years ago, both my parents were diagnosed with terminal cancers within 2 weeks of each other. It was before the Bullet Journal, but I created a notebook I carried with me for every doctor appointment.

      I was the keeper of all information for my parents’ medications, treatments, diagnosis(es), and appointment records – As we went from specialist to specialist, despite giving them permission to share information with each other – it didn’t happen back then…and maybe not today either.

      As the keeper, I updated each doctor at every appointment because my mother or father were too overwhelmed and too ill to do it for themselves. I learned their language. It gave me the confidence to challenge and question the doctors. It saved them from conflicting drugs, wrong treatments, and overdoses.

      By the time my mother died, 3 1/2 yrs later – the hospice nurse asked me what field of medicine I worked in. ha!

      Today, when I talk with my own doctor about my aches and pains, I pull out my bujo and give her a rundown. It saves me from walking out the door, and realizing I forgot to ask her about this…..

      Every person needs an advocate, especially when they are very ill. In lieu of an advocate, the bullet journal list is that safety net to safe your life.

  • Live

    This gave me the chills. This stresses even more the importance of keeping a bujo, not only for the importance of tracking self care, but also of your loved ones. I got some negative comments saying I’m overdoing it by writing everything I do down, it’s worthless, but this post diminishes all of those.

  • Quicksilvr2Gold

    Wow, this made me cry. It certainly does emphasis the value of the bullet journal, whatever form it takes for you.

  • Barbara Malcolm

    I don’t have med info in my BuJo (I will after reading this) but I do keep current med & dosage lists for my husband and myself on business card-size cards in my wallet. I always carry my wallet. EMTs, docs, nurses all are so surprised and pleased to get a small card with everything they need to know.

    • ibap

      I like this notion. But what if the mom hadn’t been there? Given the issues for all the children in this classroom, should they each have something the size of a Field Notes at the school with them at all times?

  • Nancy Denzler Oglesby

    How does it feel to save a life? I imagine that you’ve gotten over how many people’s lives you’ve changed with this incredibly complex, incredibly simple system. Saving a life has got to take it to an entirely new level. Wow! Thanks for this post. You will add more notches to your ‘lives saved’ belt with this one!

  • quakerlanecreative

    Every mother’s nightmare! Thank you for sharing your story … I too need to create a list like this for my kids as well as my husband and me! I have info scattered around the house and not in one single repository. If something should happen to me, my husband would have no idea where to locate the information! You just never know!

  • Susan Ito

    OMG. this is so huge. I’m making a medications page for myself and my 93 yr old mother right now. Thank you.

  • huhoh

    Done – I have entered my emergency info in the back with a Bright Blue Tab that says Emergency and I also took a picture of it for my phone and sent it to my husband to keep on his phone and vise versa.

    • diane_in_California

      Great idea to take a photo to save electronically and share with family members!!

  • Brianna

    This is a very inspiring story and I am so grateful the child and Mom are doing ok now.
    There is no way i could input all that info into a bullet journal – my hubby is 88 yrs and disabled with emphysema. I keep a large 3-ring notebook with all his vital info and carry it to every doctor appt. & E.R. visit. It is a full time job keeping it updated. I WISH i could condense this info to one small carry-with journal size notebook – the one we use is very heavy, but it has been indispensible, worth it’s weight in gold, many times. . . I have actually gone one further and created a few pages in my personal BuJo planner that i call “That Day” (for each of us). That Day when one of us passes. It is devastating to lose someone, even when death is expected after a long illness, the shock and grief numbs our senses and our thinking. I need a checklist to follow with every detail of what to do if he dies before i do; plus instructions & info my family will need to know if i die first.
    I know a lot of people think this is too morbid to even think about much less prepare for, but sadly everyone has their “That Day”, (for some much too young) and how many of their loved one’s are prepared or know what to do? It’s just very important to be prepared while we are cool headed and can think rationally.

  • What a remarkable story, which as a mother, teacher, and journaler, remind me of the critical necessity of recording the data of our lives. Artistically created journals are nice, but the records of our lives are more important than any embellishment to me.

  • helen vtol

    Beautifully moving story, and well written. My heart goes out to that mom, and every person who deals with those issues on a daily basis.

  • Wow. This is so powerful. I’m so glad he is okay!

  • Kevin

    What a story…a testament to being organized and prepared – both of which the Bullet Journal makes so seamless. Glad the little dude is alive and kicking! What a tale he’ll have to write in his journal!

  • Wow! Just wow! What a traumatic thing to experience, but that heavens for that vital information and that he is OK. I can’t even imagine!

  • Ann Trevorrow

    Thank you. I am a new bullet journaler and would not have thought of this. My husband is on a lot of pills a day and id someone asked me I couldn’t detail them all now, never mind under an emergency situation. Going to put this right now>

  • sheelatodd

    Thanks, Ryder, for sharing this story. I am giving some folks a bullet journal as a gift this Christmas. I was only thinking of their own goals and productivity, until I read this story. So powerful. I’ll make sure I share it with them.

  • Larkin Hunter

    I don’t even remember why I started keeping a bullet journal last summer. The minimalism and elegance appealed to me. It quickly did turn into a non-minimalist record of my mother’s medical events. Sometimes I get funny looks from people when I stop to write down things in “my book.” I don’t care. If the info is ever needed, it’s right in my book, and indexed. My mother has had quite a few 911 calls, and during one of them, the lead EMT scolded me for not having a data sheet ready to go as soon as they arrived. Point taken.

    One thing I’ll do differently in the next journal (begins 1Jan2017)–I won’t be as free and easy with other information, such as my household accounts. I had thought of the journal as a place for my family to go to look for data they might need should I be no longer around. But now that I know someone else might be looking at it, I think I’ll put the household data into a jotter and never let it leave the house.

    I, too, am so glad the little guy is safe. Horrible thing, watching a child turn blue. Wonderful to be able to lend a hand, even a shaky one!

  • Scott Souchock

    Thanks for this story. I’ve already shared it with my friends. And you can be sure I’m putting essential information into my BUJO! I’m glad this kid is ok.

  • I welled up in tears reading this story. What a wonderful thing to share, thank you so much! Also, you are a fantastic writer, I was on the edge of my seat and completely immersed the whole time!

  • Jen Crowley

    I haven’t actually started a complete BuJo yet (though I did start a mini-version of one with the fall / winter holidays this year), but my biggest question is what you do when you have to start another BuJo? If this type of health info is extensive, do you actually transfer it to the new BuJo with every new notebook? You wouldn’t carry several notebooks with you in case of emergency, so does that mean you transfer it all every time? Seems like a lot of work, right?

  • Jen Crowley

    I haven’t actually started a complete BuJo yet (though I did start a mini-version of one with the fall / winter holidays this year), but my biggest question is what you do when you have to start another BuJo? If this type of health info is extensive, do you actually transfer it to the new BuJo with every new notebook? You wouldn’t carry several notebooks with you in case of emergency, so does that mean you transfer it all every time? Seems like a lot of work, right?

    • Brianna

      really good question!

  • Wow! I got chills reading this! What a great tool BuJo keeps turning out to be!

  • Jacki Whitford

    I am a former volunteer EMT and information on a patient any age is vital. As my mother went through all the stages of Alzheimer’s I was in the hospital with her every day and my siblings came at night until she fell asleep. We did not want her to wake up and not have anyone she knew and loved in the room.

    I kept a journal of vital information – every medication she took – how much and what time (she was on 11 different ones). We recorded when she went to the bathroom (numbers 1 and 2), her blood pressure, her meals, her sleep patterns – everything. Her team of doctors at Walter Reed Bethesda changed every two to four weeks during her stay and the information helped in her treatment as well as when we took her home for hospice.

    Please take time to jot down info for seniors, children and yourself. You never know when that info can help save a life.

    P.S. I also taught American Red Cross CPR and First Aid classes for decades. Taking these classes is also valuable.

  • chanceofrainne

    When my mom got diagnosed with cancer, I kept all of my notes on her symptoms and meds and from all of her doctor’s appointments in my bujo, so anytime anyone asked about meds or treatments or symptoms or anything, I had it all right there in my book. It was extremely useful.