I Wear Medical ID

I wear medical ID.

It’s something I feel strongly about, and worry over when I don’t have on.

Most of the time I wear a bracelet and necklace, and also have stickers on my car. You might say I’m a bit paranoid about it. I would say rightfully so.

But I’m also completely “out there” about my diabetes. I make a living telling the world about it.

What about people who don’t want to broadcast their diabetes to the world? How can they protect themselves without complete disregard for their medical privacy? It’s a really tricky situation and there’s no easy answer.

All of this is even more relevant to me after passing out in public not long ago. It’s been almost a year, but the trauma is still fresh in my mind.

What if I hadn’t been with friends? I was at a place that also served alcohol – would the first responders have assumed intoxication? Who knows. But when it comes to low blood sugar, delays can be the difference between life and death, and that worries me.

Sticky Jewelry

I am a sucker for any good reason to talk about medical ID.

I was recently approached by Lori at Sticky Jewelry and asked if I would be willing to share some of their resources (full disclosure: I received a free medic alert bracelet with engraving from Sticky Jewelry, with a retail value of $43.35 +shipping). As you can see, I said yes. 🙂

One of the things I like about Sticky Jewelry is that there are some extra resources on their site. For example, there is a great page that talks about what to engrave on a medical ID bracelet (complete with a table of common medical abbreviations). There is also a nice video from a paramedic who answers a common question when thinking about what to engrave on a medical ID (includes transcript).

The selection of available styles is impressive, which brings up a question I’m curious about and will ask in just a moment. But first I’d like to show you what I picked and talk about it a little bit.

I chose the black stainless bracelet with black gunmetal insert (that just sounds cool, doesn’t it?). It’s the top bracelet in the picture below.

2013-11-04 19.29.57

 It’s a beautiful piece, and I wear it often. But there is one thing I didn’t think about when ordering this style. It is a much wider style of bracelet than the other two pictured (middle one is an older more traditional sort, the far right is one from ionloop (disclosure: also received free some time ago)) which means it can’t be flipped over to read the other side without taking the bracelet off.

I mentioned this to Lori after receiving it and she explained that her team usually covers that aspect with customers who order this style, but she missed it in my case. I appreciated her honesty. She said that with these wider styles they recommend putting diagnosis, allergies, meds, etc. on the front for first responders, and emergency contacts on the back who can be contacted shortly after treatment and when the bracelet has been removed for closer examination by treating medical professionals.

It’s an interesting situation and one that brings me to the question I mentioned above…

Traditional and Noticeable or Beautiful and Easily Missed?

Maybe I’m over-simplifying, but I think of medical ID in a couple of ways:

  • Traditional, ugly, but very noticeable
  • Beautiful, more like “real” jewelry, but easily overlooked by first responders

Is one of the reasons many of us don’t wear medical ID jewelry because it has traditionally been ugly? I think so.

Does the availability of beautiful medical ID jewelry make it easy for first responders to miss in the heat of the moment? I think so.

Are we still better off wearing beautiful but possibly easily missed medical ID jewelry than nothing at all? I think so.

What do you think?


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21 thoughts on “I Wear Medical ID

  1. I never take off my ID bracelet. I get them from coolmedid.com (I’m not an employee or family member). I find them extremely comfortable and they have many styles and colors. They are not beautiful jewelry but very functional.

  2. Great article! My son is 2 and wears a standard stainless steel medical alert bracelet. He does not have diabetes, but has systemic mastocytosis and life threatening food allergies. I choose the standard bracelet mostly because I wanted something recognizable to first responders. I care less about style and more about safety. There are many cute allergy bracelets and some that look like those rubber awareness bracelets, but my fear is that a first responder would overlook them as just another awareness bracelet or a piece of jewelry.

  3. I have type 2 diabetes.i was wondering if there was a sight or a program that I could visit to get a free medic alert bracelet.i am unemployed at the moment and cant afford to pay anything.

  4. To all who have read and commented.
    I have Von Willebrand’s and have toyed with the idea of wearing a bracelet but I don’t like the idea. Firstly because I don’t like wearing ‘jewelry’ and secondly because it could get lost or damaged.
    Would you find any value in replacing or supplementing the bracelet with an online profile that is linked to your fingerprint? The emergency responders and/or ER staff could scan immediately and understand the (let’s say) Top 5 most vital pieces of information?
    Benefits: More info can be stored than a bracelet AND you can’t lose or forget to wear your fingers.

    I’m evaluating some options for improvements in this space, and wanted to get some user feedback. Thanks!

    • This sounds like a good idea, Armen, in parts of the country where EMTs/First Responders might have the technology & training to use this. Not sure that rural areas like mine (where fire dept is volunteer) would be able to recognize or access info like this. If you look @ my comment above, you’ll see a reference to I.C.E.(in case of emergency)Bands NW website http://icebandsnorthwest.com where you’ll find very economical, innocuous-looking one-piece medical ID bands. I’ve been working on this website (as a small-time contractor) & feel it’s a great alternative. Von Willebrand’s is one of the health conditions that was on my mind when I included “blood disorders” in the list of conditions that merit wearing ID. A good friend of mine has VonWillebrand’s, and I sent her info about these bracelets as soon as I heard about them. I hope you’ll consider this too. Best wishes, Armen, and thanks again, Scott, for providing this venue for people to exchange ideas & observations. —Cat

  5. Scott, You make such wonderful points in this article, and various comments are useful and inspiring too. Here’s a link to an article about a very economical (and waterproof) i.d. that may interest you and your readers, esp. those who lead active life-styles: http://icebandsnorthwest.com/uploads/ICE-Bands-Medical-Alert.pdf (please email me if you’d like to put this article on your site, Scott.)Thank you again for an excellent article that is sure to inspire people to take the life-saving action of wearing i.d.

  6. It’s no paranoia, google about Jack Lamar Roberson, I didn’t see for sure if he was on a low, or what, but the police clearly didn’t recognize it, and wound up shooting him! It’s not 100%, but having a sticker and a bracelet couldn’t hurt.

  7. Scott, just curious because I know you play basketball. My type 1 son is asked to take it off for sports, basketball, hockey, etc. Always makes me nervous because I would rather he be wearing it. Do you keep yours on while playing sports?

  8. Great post Scott (as usual!). I just recently re-enrolled in the Medic-Alert program and ordered a new bracelet. I have been without for about 6 months. I thought – my Diabetes is so “controlled”, I don’t need any identification jewelry. My husband convinced me otherwise, and he’s right. I opted for the less pretty and more functional and more noticeable style bracelet this time, because you are right – if no one sees it and I don’t get the help required, what good is it?! Controlled or not, something could happen and he might not be around or I might to be able to speak for myself. It is just one more lifeline we can put in-place for ourselves! Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  9. Scott, I’ve been wearing the same ID necklace for about 15 years. I recognized the fact that I had to wear something, but because my wrists were always in the way of moving objects, it was harder to wear a bracelet. I have the necklace on 24 hours a day, except when I swim.

    However, your post prompted me to go back to the ID website (Medic Alert) and update my information, which I hadn’t done in over a decade. So my advice is: Keep your info up to date. Thanks for the prompt.

  10. I’m a new medical id convert – after years of not wearing one I now put one on every time I go out. I do appreciate that they are much prettier now. My dad used to be an EMT and he said they always checked the wrist first, so I wear a bracelet. I think (and hope) that even the pretty ones now are still easily recognized by first responders as medical id.

  11. Thanks for sharing this, Scott. I have taken a whole new approach to medical IDs in the past year, in large part due to the Hope Conf and what that whole conversation made me think about WHY it was I didn’t wear med IDs any more — not since I lost interest as a teen in doing so. Back then, they WERE only available in “ugly” and as a teen, wearing something like that defined me as diabetic wasn’t what I wanted. And it just never came back. But I’m glad to be wearing one of two bracelets these days whenever I go out anywhere for any length of time. Just because you’re wearing a pump that you think someone might notice, doesn’t mean they will. And I also have stickers on my rear and driver’s side car windows (or did up until recently, when I got a new car and now have to get more DAD Stickers!). The fancier, stainless steel one that I choose one that I did because I specifically wanted “Type 1 Diabetes” on the front, and so that meant getting the little symbol moved off to the left so I could have a larger engraving space. Very much enjoyed your thoughts in this post.

  12. I’ve gotten out of the habit of wearing id. I wore it faithfully for years and when my bracelet broke a couple years ago I just never replaced it. You raise some good points.

  13. I am not a medical professional or emergency responder (duh!) but I do have an interesting story about checking for ID.

    A student passed out at an event at the college when I worked there. The first thing I did was check her wrist and around her neck for ID. Was it because it was drilled into me? Would I have checked if didn’t have diabetes and wear an ID? I don’t know. Oddly enough, her ID had broken the day before and that is why she wasn’t wearing it.

  14. When I was diagnosed 2 1/2 years ago I told my family, ” if I’m going to wear this for the rest if my life, it’s got to be cute”. It has 2 strands of small beads, not real big and the plate is fairly big, but the medical symbol is pink not red. However, if it moves to the under side of my wrist it could very easily be mistaken as just a beaded bracelet. Certainly something to think about. I have had people notice it. A friend who is a nurse, noticed it and told me it was good that I wear it, and a girl working at a sandwich shop saw it and asked me where I got it, she wanted to get one for her mom. Great point you have brought up.

  15. Thanks for your thoughts, Scott! I totally agree with you about needing to wear medical ID. Although, I have to say I have recieved emergency medical care more often than I like to admit & no one has ever looked at or asked about my medic alert bracelet which is a thick red strap w a clearly identified medic alert symbol easily turned over for more info. But I’m always worried that if I’m not able to speak for myself, it can.

    Thanks for providing the link for the care diabetic drivers decal website. I didn’t know such a thing was available & I’ve already ordered mine. I hope that if I ever experience a low while driving, even though I always test before getting behind the wheel, the police would see the decal & not just assume I am intoxicated. After having seen so many diabetics get treated poorly while experiencing a low, I don’t want it to happen to me. Plus, besides that, the decal may prevent a delay in my getting treatment.

    I recently found your blog & I’m enjoying reading it. Thanks for all the great info you provide to new, inexperienced T1D like myself!