Jackie Meik is not likely ever to forget the day her son Seth, 10, woke up and then passed out.
He remained unconscious until his family gave him a glycogen shot that raised his blood sugar level.The boy has been diabetic since he was 5, and he has learned to control his blood sugar very well, checking it three times a day and giving himself four insulin injections.
But good control isn't perfect. And if his blood sugar drops and he loses consciousness, he could die without proper help. Jackie and Robert Meik know they can't be with him all the time in case the unexpected happens.
That's why, several years ago, they decided to give him a MedicAlert bracelet, a gold amulet that's backed by information and personnel to ensure proper treatment is given in an emergency.
MedicAlert was founded 43 years ago by Dr. Marion Collins and his wife Chrissie after their daughter nearly died from an allergic reaction to tetanus vaccine. They believed there had to be a visible, foolproof way to identify life-threatening medical conditions and came up with the MedicAlert jewelry.
The metal identification emblems are engraved with the wearer's vital medical facts - allergic to penicillin or diabetic, for example - with a phone number that triggers calls to a response center that provides emergency medical information.
An estimated 100 million Americans have chronic conditions, according to the Journal of American Medicine. The most common single category of MedicAlert users are diabetics, but the medical jewelry is also popular with asthmatics, those with food and drug allergies, seizure disorders and various heart diseases that require med-i-ca-tion.
The American Medical Association believes that the at-risk population has at least 200 hidden medical conditions that could kill them if an emergency is not quickly and easily identified. In the United States, 220,000 people make unplanned emergency room visits each day. Of those, 13,200 "risk life-threatening delays or complications because they can't tell emergency personnel about such volatile conditions as asthma, diabetes and drug allergies," according to Sidonie Squier, spokeswoman for MedcAlert.
The cost to join the nonprofit MedicAlert is $35, then $15 a year.
Joan Olsen didn't join to make it easier to summon help. She joined to keep people from calling an ambulance.
The 63-year-old American Fork resident has a "conversion disorder," which means that she can fall into a trance state. In that state, she can hear what's going on around her, but is not able to respond. She controls it with medication.
But occasionally, the disorder gets the best of her and she shuts down for 30 minutes to two hours. Because she's awake and alert but unresponsive, the disorder is called a "silent seizure." And people who find her in that state usually panic and call 911.
That's exactly what she doesn't want, since it means an unneeded and expensive ambulance ride to the hospital.
She wears a MedicAlert ID, which describes her condition and refers paramedics and others to a hotline that provides the telephone numbers of family members who can take her home.
The only thing to do with her disorder, caused by a chemical deficiency, is outlast it. But the ID helps, she said. Several times in public places, bystanders who were concerned have called the toll-free number and seen that relatives are notified to take her home.