16 Feb What I Learned When My College Daughter Was Sent to the E.R.
My husband and I were still adjusting to our new empty-nester lifestyle, as our daughter, Alex, had
moved to an out-of-state college just months before. Everything was fine – or so we thought – until the
late-night call that no parent ever wants to receive.
“Mom, it’s me. I’m okay … but it’s really bad,” Alex told me as she was being hauled away in an
ambulance. Moments later an EMT grabbed the phone. “We’re calling with a partial amputation. We’re
pulling into emergency. We’ll call you back.” Click.
Hundreds of miles away, my husband and I were left helpless – and in a panic. Desperate to help, I
reached for my cell phone. But I had no contacts, none from the college, local hospitals, police
department or even Alex’s roommates.
I also was forced to realize something that had never crossed my mind before. Alex was 18 years old, a
legal adult. I no longer had the rights to her medical affairs without permission. Had she not been
conscious enough to call, my husband and I would have slept through the night completely oblivious to
the fact that our Alex was receiving emergency surgery.
Thankfully, the surgery went well. But I often thought about our traumatic experience and wanted to
know if other parents and guardians were as unprepared as I was. I thought long and hard about how I
could help ensure Alex’s safety from so far away. There had to be some way for students and their
families to have all necessary information in one place to be accessed with a touch of a button during a
crisis or emergency.
That’s when my brother Barry and I took the entrepreneurial leap and created
Umergency™, a safety app that gives college families the tools needed to navigate any emergency,
health or safety situation.
Safety has always been a critical issue for me. Years earlier, I saw a need to do something about teen
driving and founded In One Instant, now a national safe driving program for adolescents. Free for
students, Umergency seemed to be the logical next phase of protecting and empowering youth as they
We started by surveying hundreds of parents from across the country. It turned out that nearly all
parents of freshmen college students (98 percent) do not have emergency contact information for their
children’s on- and off-campus health and safety resources.
We also found that 94 percent of them were unaware that they would not be able to speak to a medical
professional once their child turns 18 years old without their child’s permission. Making matters worse,
91 percent with kids in college did not have contact information for their children’s roommate, and all of
them reported not having phone numbers or e-mails for their sons’ or daughters’ college dorm resident
I realized that the majority of parents needed the same information that I did. With additional input
from scores of students, we arrived at the idea of an “Urgent Alert Beacon.” I longed for the peace of
mind where I (and Alex’s other trusted contacts) would be notified when Alex needed immediate help,
along with her GPS location. While I knew I could not prevent an emergency in my daughter’s life, I
needed to know that I had done all I could to give her an established resource to turn to when the
Needless to say, stuff happens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than
20 percent of college-aged individuals – approximately 4 million young adults – end up in the emergency
room each year because of car crashes, alcohol poisonings, medical illness, accidental injuries, sexual
assault, and drug overdoses.
Being young means being invincible. As a parent, it’s so hard to let go sometimes and we eagerly want
to be connected to our children, especially in today’s volatile campus environment with rising gun
While parents always think about their children’s safety, their kids don’t necessarily feel the same
way. We can’t always prevent a crisis from happening, but being prepared for any emergency gives
parents peace of mind and empowers students to take control of their safety. Hopefully my experience,
and the Umergency app, can help other moms and dads. We love our children and never wish any harm.