Medical Identification - Yes or No ?

Not long after diagnosis people with diabetes can often have a choice to make, do they wear a medi-alert tag or not?

The purpose of wearing medi-alert jewellery is that the item alerts a stranger that you have a medical condition. Quite often they have the symbol for medicine- say the snake and staff on one side and then they have the details of the condition on the reverse. And sometimes they tell the stranger what to do in the case of an emergency. When I was first diagnosed with diabetes I decided to wear one, that was a gift from my mother. I remember it was a chunky silver bracelet that had a flat panel part way along the chain. With the recognisable medical symbol on one side and the details of my diabetes on the other. I really liked the bracelet and didn't mind wearing it, but what did bother me was how many questions people asked about it. Perhaps that was because I was in high school when I first started wearing it. But this leads to the question are medi-alerts a life saver or a constant source for questions?

As I previously mentioned, medi-alert tags can be worn in many different forms- from bracelets, to necklaces or as home screens on smart phones. The main concept is that if something should happen with your diabetes, for example you collapsed whilst out on your own. And you collapsed because you were having a hypo, then time could make all the difference. And identifying that you have diabetes may take a prolonged amount of time otherwise. Time that could be much better spent treating you.

One of my friends from the IDF Europe camp came to visit in Wales, we met up for coffee and he told me a fantastic story about meeting someone with diabetes. My friend is about to embark on a masters degree in diabetes nursing, an amazing achievement. And he happens to have Type 1 diabetes himself. But whilst he was doing his nursing degree his course required that he go out with the paramedic team in the first response ambulance. On his very first shift he was called out to a man that had collapsed in the city centre of a town in the middle of the day. The paramedics were informed that he'd had a suspected heart attack. So the paramedics got to the scene as quick as they could and brought the man into the ambulance for treatment. My friend was observing, but he told me that reading the symptoms and looking at the man he knew immediately that this man hadn't had a stroke or a heart attack. My friend thought the man had diabetes and was having a severe hypo. So he informed the paramedics of his thoughts immediately, so they tested his blood sugars and my friend was right. The man had been struggling to manage his diabetes of late, and had slipped into a seriously bad hypo without being able to tell anyone about it.

When he regained full consciousness my friend was able to tell the man what had happened. The first thing he said was that my friend had saved his life, which he had. For my friend that was also the confirming moment that he had made the right choice, he was meant to specialise in diabetes and save lives. But my other point is, is that this man wasn't wearing any kind of identification to explain to others that he had diabetes. And he was a prime example of the fact that each persons diabetes is different. But that it can fluctuate good to bad and sometimes be unpredictable at times. The man in the ambulance was very lucky that my friend was on board, had diabetes himself and recognised the symptoms. But the likeliness of this happening for all of us with the condition every time is slim to none. So should he of had a form of medical iD jewellery on?

However, on the other hand I've found that sometimes when you wear a medi-alert that people tend to ask you more questions and it draws attention in the everyday. But isn't that a good thing in a way, as this means more people know you have the condition and can possibly help. There are many different options of what you can wear and how you can wear it. So keep an eye out for the next blog instalment on customisable medi-alert jewellery, knowing your options and making your own choice.


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My blog takes you through a daily look at sport, diabetes and everything in between. As an athlete that lives with type 1 diabetes I want to let you into news, views and all that is important to both of my passions.

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