Sarah’s Story: Food Allergies, MedicAlert and Me

By Sarah Ackerman   

When I was three years old, I got my first real piece of jewelry. It was silver and gold and customized for me. There was nobody else in the world who could wear this bracelet, and I felt special.

My MedicAlert bracelet has remained on my wrist for the past twenty-one years. It has seen me through every dance performance, breakup, sleepover, and most importantly, allergic reaction. While the styles, allergies, and chain length have changed over the years, one thing remains clear: this bracelet is my lifeline.

To make it easier, I’ll start at the beginning. When entering preschool, my pediatrician explained to my parents the importance of having a MedicAlert bracelet. The MedicAlert ID provided me with my first major life lesson and feeling of identity. I was taught to flip the bracelet over upon meeting an adult, point to it for them to read, and say “no nuts for me.” Simple, but it worked. And quite honestly, you can’t expect much more from a three-year-old. I was perfectly trained.

While I was growing up and still too young to fully communicate my allergies, this bracelet provided my parents with peace of mind. This bracelet, that looked way too nice for any child to otherwise be wearing, was apparent upon seeing me. At school, dance class, rehearsals, or playdates, the bracelet remained a constant. A constant voice that would be available if something were to go wrong.

Once I reached my teenage years, I wanted to find the aspects of my food allergies I felt like I could control. My MedicAlert bracelet was the only thing I could think of. As a result, I sometimes took it off, just to see if anyone would notice and if something bad would happen. When I did that, I always felt nervous knowing that, if something went wrong, I wasn’t helping myself. My parents tried to turn it into something special, showing me all the styles and allowing me to pick out my very own. As jealous as my sister was of me picking out the styles, I was more jealous that she didn’t have to wear one at all. I looked around the hallways and saw bare wrists of my classmates, feeling like this bracelet had huge arrows pointing to it with big flashing lights. In reality, nobody noticed it except for the people who were trained to. I wish I realized that sooner.

I think my pediatrician said it best when he said, “In the event something happens, food allergies would be the last thing someone thinks of, when it should be the first.” With food allergies, treatment needs to be immediate; there is absolutely no time to wait.

After that, I never took my bracelet off again.

I have had a number of conversations with people who think they no longer need a MedicAlert bracelet as they get older. That couldn’t be further from the truth. As I now work to educate others about the importance of MedicAlert, I point out the incredible benefits that often go unrealized. My bracelet ID allows my health information, physicians, and loved ones to be linked to my account. If something were to happen, I find great comfort in knowing that because of my bracelet, all the right people could be reached.

I am well into my twenties, still look forward to picking out a new bracelet, and will continue to wear my MedicAlert to keep me safe.