DEAR ABBY: The letter in your column about what legal documents students should have once they reach the age of 18 prompted me to write.
With college starting again, please recommend that students have a personal fact sheet on hand, in a place where it can be easily located. It should include important information such as parents' names, address and phone numbers, food and drug allergies, prescription and non-prescription medications and dosages, the name and phone number of their family physician, dentist and pharmacy, their medical history and insurance information, etc.
New friends and acquaintances may not know these facts, or in an emergency will not remember them. The time it takes to look up the information in school records may mean the difference between life and death.
Because of my complex medical history and numerous prescriptions, this has been a lifesaver after accidents, when seeing new physicians and in emergency situations -- especially when out of town. I keep it on my computer and hand the information out when necessary. Doctors and nurses rely on having an accurate and complete list of data. -- BETTY NOLAN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, SOUTHEASTERN OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY
DEAR BETTY: You have made a good point. In the past, I have usually targeted these suggestions to older adults. But everyone who lives independently should obey the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared. And that means printing out copies of emergency information and informing friends, roommates and dormitory advisers where they can easily find it in an emergency.
DEAR ABBY: I'm responding to the letter from "Teen-Age Aunt in Illinois," who felt guilty about reporting that she saw her sister's boyfriend hit her.
Seven years ago, 19 days before my eighth birthday, my sister was murdered by her boyfriend. Then he committed suicide. My sister loved him very much, but he didn't love her. They had two children.
He hit me only twice, but every time he hit my sister I would grab my niece and nephew and hide with them under the table. Once I almost called 911, but he left. I was afraid of him, but my sister made me promise not to tell anyone -- and I didn't.
I'm now 14, and we adopted my niece and nephew. I love them dearly, but I miss my older sister very much.
If only I had told my father what was going on, I might have saved my sister's life. I recently told my father what happened -- seven years too late. I regret that I didn't tell, and I'll regret it for the rest of my life.
"Teen-Age Aunt" -- if you love your sister and your niece, please tell someone! -- REGRETFUL TEEN IN GEORGIA
DEAR REGRETFUL TEEN: Thank you for a powerful letter. You will never know how many lives you may have saved today by writing it.
Now, please accept some unsolicited advice: You were a small child when this tragedy occurred. You were doing what your sister asked you to do, and at the age of 7, you couldn't have been expected to be independent enough in your judgment to have done otherwise. If you cannot let go of your feelings of guilt, talking them out with a professional counselor would be helpful. As much as one might wish it, no one can change the past. We can only change the future.
Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)
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