I suffer from an “orphan disease’ with an associated skin condition that looks like a sign of an infectious disease or other more serious ailments. As it is an orphan disease, ambulance personnel may have never seen or heard of it, and most likely would not be familiar with its typical signs and symptoms. Sometimes emergency medical personnel misinterpret my skin condition and start treating me for the wrong disease, so I wrote the state office of Emergency Medical Services for advice as to what to inscribe on my MedicAlert tag in order to alert ambulance crews to disregard my skin condition when deciding what treatment I should receive.

The response shocked me, and I think it’s important to share it with all persons who wear medical alert jewelry, and all physicians who tell their patients to wear medical alert jewelry, to know what the state said.

A state official wrote that I could write anything I wanted on a medical alert tag because ambulance personnel were under no obligation to pay any attention to what the medical alert tag said. In disbelief, I checked the state’s patient protocols online — their protocols completely ignore medical alert jewelry or what EMTs could learn if they find a patient is wearing one.

Remember, if used properly by first responders, medical alert jewelry speaks for unconscious patients who cannot speak for themselves. The state’s protocols need to be changed to benefit patients who try to help EMTs save their lives by wearing medical alert jewelry.

Robert E. Gross


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