Why I Decided to Wear a Medical Bracelet Because of My Epilepsy


Have you taken the plunge?

Until quite recently, I hadn’t. Caught in a conundrum of whether or not to wear a medical bracelet, I hemmed, I hawed, and I finally chose to “don one.” Of course, I personally believe there’s no question but to wear one — if I were driven by sheer logic. But I’m not, and perhaps you aren’t, either.

The question, then, comes down to the practical vs. the emotional.

Practically speaking:

Get the right help: Strangers need to know what’s wrong when you have a seizure. If you have epilepsy, they could mistake your seizure for a drug-related event, a different neurological disorder, schizophrenia, diabetes or another culprits.  If they do, you may find yourself in jail or a psychiatric facility rather than an ER or your home.

Don’t shock others: Those who know you, but don’t know about your epilepsy, may be in for a shock if you suddenly have a seizure. When I’ve had them at workplaces where people were unaware of my condition, I’ve been racked with regret afterwards knowing I frightened others.

But on an emotional level:

Label: A medical bracelet is literally a label seen by the world.

Out with it: People will ask what it’s for, and you’ll have to tell them.

Admit it to yourself: If your seizures are infrequent, you might have to admit to yourself you have a condition you may be ashamed of having.

Yuck: You just don’t like the way they look, though there are many to choose from.

These days, I fall on the practical side. For many years wearing a bracelet made me — shudder. I was one of those hiding my epilepsy; in many ways as much from myself as from others. Taking my pills had become automatic, and I rarely consciously associated the medicine with my disorder. Then I’d have a seizure, and depending where I was and who I was with, things could go very wrong.

One time, I had a tonic-clonic seizure at O’Hare Airport, 800 miles from home. Hitting my head, I woke up paraplegic between cluster seizures. There was no ID on me, thankfully, the hospital staff was able, circuitously, to track down someone who knew me. I had to stay in the ICU for three days, and I know I would have gotten the needed care much earlier had I given them a straight path to answers by wearing a medical bracelet.

After four months, I was able to walk — though I can’t run and have spotty numbness. I don’t know what the outcome would have been if I had been wearing a bracelet, but I suspect with a faster response to my condition, I might have suffered fewer long-lasting effects.

Regardless, I would have had better emergency care. After this, I wore a bracelet, and I never take it off. I considered wearing the more subtle necklace, but I doubt anyone other than an EMR would look for it.

To say the least, it’s a personal decision, and an especially tricky one for persons with epilepsy who hide their disorder. There’s one more “pro” to consider. If you’re one of us who would like to help end the stigma against epilepsy, a medical bracelet can lead to a good opportunity. When someone asks you what it’s for, often expecting to hear “bee allergy” or something similar, tell them without flinching and with as much pride as ever. Then, see if they have questions. If they don’t, fill in the blanks with information to educate them about the condition. I’ve found most people are fascinated, and now they have a face to put to it. Yours.

Go ahead. Take the plunge.

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Thinkstock photo by: halfpoint

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