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Google data backs that COVID-19 took the spotlight and dominated our lives, globally the past year and a half as the most searched word across all countries in 2020. This has somewhat shifted the focus away from other illnesses and diseases that persist. 

The challenge that was brought by the pandemic is that should there be an emergency and we are required to lend a helping hand; how do we go about it with the strict health protocols and social distancing practises we have in place? 

It is essential to point out that social distancing should not be viewed as a rule of law, but rather as a health principle. With that said, what do you do when you notice that someone needs immediate medical help, and when they are wearing a medical identity bracelet (identifiers)? How does one attend to emergencies during this pandemic with social distancing being a way to protect each other? Ruth Goble, Operations Executive at MedicAlert Foundation of Southern Africa answers some of those questions and highlights the importance of having a medical identifier. We also get personal experiences from people with medical identifiers on how the bracelets have saved their lives.

A medical identifier is a small tag worn on a bracelet, neck chain, or on clothing for the purpose of conveying a message that the individual wearing it, has an important medical condition that might require immediate attention.

Importance Of Medical Identifiers

‘’…They asked if I was allergic to anything. I was past caring and just stuck out my arm with the bracelet on it. They reacted immediately, read the information on the bracelet and I was on my way…’’ – Mary 

Goble explains that medical identifiers are important because by wearing an identifier, the first responder (person who attends to you in an emergency) is able to treat you rapidly and more efficiently, based on the medical information listed on the emblem. She explains further that, ‘’the information on the identifier will assist the first responder or medical personnel to assess your condition and treat you accordingly, without having to “waste time” trying to find out any information from the patient regarding these conditions. They will also be able to ascertain from the emblem whether there are any medications you are allergic to, which prevents the incorrect medication being administered.’’

“…Elrinda is still recovering from long covid symptoms of last year. The whole family was affected. Luckily for the medic alert bracelet. The doctors redirect/ adjusted her medication and saved her life…’’Family member

Goble also unpacks that it is pivotal now, more than ever to have a medical identifier because with the extra restrictions placed on the country during the pandemic and with no family members being allowed to accompany Covid 19 patients to medical facilities, it is even more important that a person has an identifier to alert medical professionals to any conditions or allergies, in order for them to assess any extra risk when treating the virus.

‘’…The emergency room obviously relies on the information they can gather to help best. I had a medic alert chain and could immediately give them detailed information that saved my life…’’ Sonja 

Social Distancing And Lending A Helping Hand

Goble confidently shares that as with many situations during this pandemic, first responders are faced with an extra layer of precautions to be taken in an emergency. ‘’Medics are equipped with gloves and other protective equipment to enable them to assist patients. As a lay person who may be the first on the scene, should you not have the necessary protective equipment, or not feel comfortable in assisting the patient, please call our 24/7 Call centre (0214610000) or your local emergency helpline,’’ she advises. 

Accessibility Of Medical Identifiers

A MedicAlert emblem or identifier can be obtained by completing an application form with the details to be recorded on the emblem and on MedicAlert’s database, and sign up for the monthly fee – this enables them to provide the backup service provided by their 24/7 call center.  As all the medical information is often not able to be engraved on an emblem, it is vital to have the extra information available from the call center. An identifier from their range can then be purchased.  

This can all be done online at www.medicalert.co.za or by obtaining the forms from their admin office (0214610000 or info@medicalert.co.za).