September 3, 2010

To wear or not to wear a medic alert ID

Many people on the forums are asking about wearing a medic alert bracelet or carrying a medic alert card.

First, there is nothing that requires that you wear anything. Now that I've written that, I would like to give you a few reasons for wearing one.

Every day, somewhere in the USA, an officer of the law stops someone that appears or acts like they have had too much to drink. While many are overly full of the spirits, some are having hypoglycemia. Since the symptoms are very similar, erratic driving, slurred speech, etc., they often get locked up in the local jail. Some have problems and actually go into a diabetic coma, a few die, and others are able hang on until someone recognizes that they have hypoglycemia and they get treatment. Not the outcome that is desired for all concerned.

To begin with, people should test their blood glucose (BG) before turning the key in their car. If they are below a certain number, they should take a glucose tablet or more and retest at 15 minute intervals. When the BG is at an acceptable level, then they can drive. The only people that should be exempted from this requirement are people that are able to control their diabetes with nutrition and exercise or that the doctor has given a written permission to drive without testing because the medications they are on will not cause lows – which are very few. Many or in reality most oral medications can and will cause hypoglycemia especially when in combinations. Insulin will cause hypoglycemia.

A few states are starting to recognize this problem and are treating these people like drunk drivers and fining them and suspending their drivers licenses. I honestly hope more states follow suit. There are far too many accidents resulting in deaths caused by people with hypoglycemia. And we should take this seriously.

Now, I have to attack our insurance industry for their restrictions on covering testing supplies. People that drive a lot, should not need to be afraid of testing as often as needed nor have constraints from an insurance company that because they are people with type 2 diabetes, they should only be allowed to test twice a day. If they are on oral medications that can cause lows, they need to test more often. Of course if they are on insulin, they are allowed more testing supplies, but this still may not be enough if this person does a lot of driving. This is where a doctors orders should be allowed to increase testing supplies when needed and insurance companies should allow for these cases.

This is probably one of the biggest reasons to wear a medic alert bracelet. Some will say necklace, and others will say carry a card. A few will say that they want tattoos with the information in them. Another item to consider is a medical identification microchip as is being promoted in some parts of the country. All are reasonable and all should be considered and even in possible combinations. There are pros and cons for each, but this is a topic for another blog. I would also suggest that a medic alert sticker should be available for motor vehicles that would be visible to law enforcement.

The State of Iowa at their Police Training Academies does cover many of the medical topics since our state trains them to be first responders for all 911 situations. Hypoglycemia is one of the topics covered as is hyperglycemia.

In my talks with the local police department and ambulance service manned by Emergency Medical Technicians and paramedics, all have been in agreement that they look for medic alert bracelets, necklaces, and cards. Normally the police are first on the scene and if the patient is conscious they ask questions and if unconscious, look to get information as quickly as possible from medical alert jewelry and contact sources as rapidly as possible. This way when the paramedics, (EMT's) arrive, they have as much information as possible for them to better preform their duties.

They are trained to look for glucose tablets, orange juice, or other items that can quickly raise blood glucose or be prepared the inform the EMT's that glucose need to be administered with the IV. But they cannot do this unless they have the medic alert information available. They even suggest having medical data in the refrigerator in plain view as some people have had.

It is surprising how many people with diabetes do not even consider wearing medic alert jewelry and won't. Probably because they are wanting to be private about their diabetes. I say that this is a poor reason and you life may depend on people being able to get information quickly when it may be your life that is at stake.

I have been wearing a necklace with information on a pendant, but after reading more in preparation for this blog, I am going to get a medic alert bracelet and get registered with Medic Alert Advantage program for $30 per year with a $9.95 initial set up fee. I am not sure which jewelry I will select yet, but this is on my to-do-immediately list. I do encourage everyone with diabetes to do the same. It could be a lifesaving move. There is other medical alert jewelry, but none is part of the system by Medic Alert Organization.

You need to talk to your local ambulance service and police department in your state to find out how they handle these situations. It could save your life.

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