Today, one small trinket saves lives around the world, protecting the well being of others by serving as the global information link between its owners and emergency responders during medical emergencies and other times of need.
For years, MedicAlert Foundation has been known for its life-saving medical identification bracelets, but the incident that led to the concept over 60 years ago was a frightening one.
It was the summer of 1953 in Turlock when 14-year-old Linda Collins, the daughter of physician and surgeon Dr. Marion Collins, cut her finger so severely that she required a trip to the hospital. Linda’s uncle followed standard procedure, performing a skin test before injecting Linda with tetanus antitoxin, but seconds later, Linda went into anaphylactic shock - a potentially fatal allergic reaction - nearly ending her life.
The incident was a wake up call for Linda’s parents, who from that moment on attached notes to her coat or demanded she wear a paper bracelet describing her allergies. It was Linda who came up with the idea of a silver bracelet with “Allergic to Tetanus Antitoxin” engraved on its back, which Dr. Collins then added “Medic Alert” and the symbol of the medical profession on the front. The design was then sent to a local jeweler, creating the first ever MedicAlert bracelet.
Soon after, Dr. Collins established MedicAlert Foundation International, a nonprofit, tax-exempt and charitable organization.
Now, in 2016, MedicAlert continues to serve millions of members throughout the United States. Most recently, the organization relocated from its longtime home of Turlock to a new location in Salida - a spacious, 15,000-square-foot building near Highway 99. The new headquarters employs 68 workers and has a 24-hour emergency call center, a mail room, administrative offices and a manufacturing room where the famous ID bracelets are created.
Each bracelet is pieced together individually in the manufacturing area; names are engraved, chains are linked together and a laser spot welding machine is used to make the bracelet whole. After assemblage, each bracelet is individually packaged and mailed to its recipient.
“It’s a fun process,” said manufacturing and fulfillment manager Tammy Johnson.
The bracelets come in a wide variety of styles, shapes and colors to choose from - 700 to be exact - including gold, stainless steel, silver and titanium. Customers aren’t just limited to bracelets, either. MedicAlert’s ID tags also come in the form of necklaces and other accessories, such as key chains and shoe tags. Each is inscribed with the client’s medical conditions, medications, allergies MedicAlert member number and the organization’s telephone number.
If a customer who is found unconscious is wearing a MedicAlert ID, the call center provides first responders with important information about the person’s health condition, such as medications they may need or allergies they may have.
Along with ID jewelry and accessories, MedicAlert also offers services for community members with autism or Alzheimer’s disease who may be likely to wander. The foundation also has a smartphone app for medical professional referrals and a Kid Smart service, which pairs 24-hour family notification, immunization records and treatment instructions with a child’s medical ID.
Though the company has saved lives for decades, it is always looking ahead to the future. MedicAlert aims to invest in new technology that will make it easier for the medical community to pass MedicAlert information along to their patients, taking advantage of the increased quality of health information. However for now, their medical IDs and other programs do more than enough, saving lives every day.