The MedicAlert Foundation can trace its roots back to 1953. Here we highlight the major stepping stones in the success story of MedicAlert.
A 14 year old girl called Linda cut her fingers while out shooting in Turlock, California, USA. While being treated at the local hospital she went into near fatal anaphylactic shock when given a skin test for a dose of tetanus antitoxin. Luckily she survived. Had she have been given a full dose of the tetanus injection, she may not have survived.
Her parents Dr Marion and Chrissie Collins were now more aware of their daughter’s vulnerability in an emergency and would attach a note to her coat describing their daughter’s allergies whenever she was away from home.
When Linda started university they decided that she needed something more permanent. So her parents designed a metal emblem using a version of the healing arts symbol, the staff of Aesculapius, followed by the words ‘MedicAlert’ in red and a list of their daughter’s allergies at the back.
At university other people with allergies started to notice Linda’s bracelet. As interest grew, Dr and Mrs Collins decided to share their ideas with others.
The Collins family reserved a booth at the congress of the American College of Surgeons in San Francisco in October 1956 and brought along 200 MedicAlert bracelets and a small engraving machine.
They organised a major mailing campaign across North America at their own expense and designed MedicAlert posters, which were mailed to hospitals, police chiefs and county sheriffs departments.
A 24-hour phone service was launched to provide details on the person’s medical history, name, next of kin and address. Emblems now had a unique numbering on them to support this service. MedicAlert was also relocated from the Collins’ house to two rooms at the Lilliam Collins Hospital, which was founded by Dr Collins’ father.
The Canadian MedicAlert Foundation was formed as a non-profit organisation in Toronto. This was closely followed by New Zealand and the UK. With support from The Lions Club printing an article about MedicAlert in their international magazine, the Collins family took a six week tour around Europe, to promote MedicAlert to interested Lion Clubs.
Helped by the Lions Clubs and in particular Denis Gilchrist, a former Chair of The MedicAlert Foundation and International Director, the word of MedicAlert spread in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. MedicAlert became a registered charity, modernising over the years and launching an emergency phone number housed within the London Ambulance Service with translators for over 100 languages.
MedicAlert makes headlines in the Nursing Times with an article about living with allergies and the impact the allergies have on lifestyles and families.
At the Lions International Multiple-District Convention, the Lions Clubs decided to have a greater involvement with MedicAlert. Denis Gilchrist agreed to help lead the renewed support and to assist in driving the organisation forward.
MedicAlert UK and Ireland moved its headquarters to Milton Keynes, employing 40 staff who have provided support for over 300,000 members in over 50 countries around the world.
MedicAlert continues to build strong partnerships with charities that support people with Diabetes, Allergies and Epilepsy. Paramedics and other first responders are also kept up-to-date with news on the service and are regularly reminded of the importance of checking for an emblem.