Identify Yourself!
It's a Type 2 Life
It's a Type 2 Life

San Francisco Bay Area resident Patrick Totty writes about his experiences living with type 2 diabetes

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Identify Yourself!

We type 2s know we should carry or wear medical alerts to let emergency doctors and technicians know about our condition.

And we certainly want law enforcement people to be able recognize that what may look to them to be drunk and disorderly behavior is actually extreme hypoglycemia. There have been too many cases of “mistaken behavior” where diabetics in life-threatening difficulty were treated as resistant and uncooperative perps by cops who didn’t understand what they were dealing with.

Fortunately, there are many choices among ways to alert our would-be helpers. They range from simple and inexpensive to costly and high-tech. A Google search using terms like “diabetic medical alert devices” will bring up many useful links. Once you see the range and prices of available alert devices, check with your health insurance provider or HMO to see which ones you may qualify for.


Bracelets and necklaces, the most popular types of medical alert paraphernalia, can be passive or active. The simplest ones give your name, your condition (“Type 2 Diabetes”), drug allergies, and your “must-have” medications.  Some necklaces connect with an emergency dispatch system. The wearer presses a button to alert somebody that he or she is in medical trouble.

One interesting variation is ScanMed QR, a recently introduced technology where customers create medical profiles on a website and then pay $25 for a silicone sports band that is laser-etched with a unique access code. Doctors and emergency providers can use a smartphone to scan the code and quickly access vital information. (The manufacturer is Rocket Surgery Concepts in Oklahoma City.)

Smartphone Apps

If you’re having a diabetic emergency, chances are you won’t be in condition to use your smartphone. But your relatives, friends, and colleagues can help you by downloading an app onto their smartphones that will tell them how to deal with your hypoglycemic episode.

That way, wherever you are—having coffee, at work, at a party, taking in a ball game—you’ll be in the company of people who can effectively help you.

Encouraging  those close to you to have a diabetes app at the ready also empowers them. People like to know that they have a way to assist you or even save you.

If you Google “smartphone diabetes emergency apps,” you’ll find links to much helpful information.


As tattoos have gained popularity in our culture, the idea of tattoos, usually on the forearms, that identify the wearer as having diabetes has caught on. Among the pros are a tattoo’s prominence and permanence, and the fact that you can’t misplace it. Cons include cost versus bracelets/necklaces, pain during tattooing, and, ironically, permanence—if you wind up not liking your tat, you just may have to live with it. 

Medical tats work best if they aren’t surrounded by a lot of other artwork. Although most EMTs know to scan a person’s body for tattooed medical information, they won’t have the time to look over every square inch of a heavily tattooed person for tell-tale info. The better bet is a bracelet or necklace.

Here’s a good summary of diabetic tattoos pros and cons.

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Tags: Insights , Education

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About the Author

Bay Area resident Patrick Totty was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in July, 2003.

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