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Medical Alert Bracelets Get a Makeover in Tennessee

A little bling could save your life.

Medical identification bracelets and necklaces alert emergency workers to conditions such as diabetes, allergies and heart disease, but before two artists came along, the bracelets came one way -- gray, metallic, a little like military dog tags.

Shelly Fisher and Lisa Paige Hobyak changed that, creating a business called Hope Paige Medical near Philadelphia. Fisher said a friend's daughter refused to wear a conventional diabetes bracelet, so the women put their heads together for purposes both fun and noble -- pushing style and saving lives.

"If the daughter had a sugar episode, her mother worried she'd seem drunk and end up in a police station instead of a hospital," Fisher said in a phone interview. "We hit a niche, I think."

The business took off, Fisher said, and now Chattanooga residents can order the jewelry at area Bi-Lo stores.

Doctors and emergency workers recommend medical identification jewelry for anyone suffering from a range of disorders, including diabetes, asthma, peanut allergies, heart disease and blood problems.

But Ken Wilkerson, chief of Hamilton County Emergency Services, said the new product wouldn't necessarily catch his eye.

"If we see a piece of jewelry, that only looks like a piece of jewelry," he said, "We think it's a piece of jewelry."

Fisher said each accessory comes with a "prominent" universal medical alert symbol, along with engraved information about the wearer's medical condition. It comes in handy when a patient is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to explain what's wrong, she said.

"Emergency workers are trained to look at everything head to toe," she said.

Wilkerson said that's true -- "the more we know, the more we can do" -- but he admitted that paramedics are used to looking for "the old favorite," not the new product.

"There's a new item coming down the pike every day," he said.

Bi-Lo stores in Chattanooga, East Ridge, Harrison, Hixson, Ooltewah and Red Bank carry order forms and applications for the medical jewelry in their pharmacy departments, Fisher said.

The jewelry, with rope, crystal and beaded designs, costs "anywhere from $19.95 to $49.95" with no extra fee for engraving, she said.



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