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Home > Topics > Community Awareness
July 12, 2011
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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Yes Virginia, patients can be fashion conscious

By Arthur Hsieh

After a friend's daughter refused to wear a conventional diabetes bracelet because of the way it looked, two Philadelphia artists decided to start a business creating medical alert jewelry that both pushes style and saves lives.

Some of the more challenging patients we treat are those who experience altered mental status.

The brain is affected by so many conditions, causing it to function ineffectively. The signs range from simple anxiety and uneasiness to unconsciousness, and in many situations, what patients or bystanders tell us is inaccurate or quite false.

I remember one incident many years back, where the driver of a car rear ended another vehicle on the freeway during the height of rush hour. The Highway Patrol requested EMS because the patient, while anxious and irritable, appeared to be having some type of medical event.

He was cool and profusely diaphoretic, even though it was a warm fall afternoon. The patient told us he was heading home, and provided his address that matched his driver's license.

What was a little unusual was that there were empty cans of soft drinks strewn all over the passenger compartment. On a hunch, my partner tested the patient's blood sugar level — turned out he was close to zero!

Two amps of Dextrose later and the diabetic patient "woke up" — wondering why he was in San Francisco, since he had business in another city ninety miles way.

Turns out that not only did he drive from his original destination to where we found him while altered, he did it twice that day. The cans of empty soda? Yep — they were diet drinks.

We spoke briefly about medical identification jewelry during the transport. The patient had considered the possibility, but did not like how it looked. After that event, I'm sure he's got one now.

I'm glad that the bracelets are getting a facelift. I shared the concern that the intent of the medical ID may be lost in the fashion forward designs, but going to their website, it seems pretty clear that an EMS provider should be able to readily identify the jewelry.

If this encourages more patients to wear the devices, that's great.

About the author

EMS1 Editor in Chief Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at Art.Hsieh@ems1.com.
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